"And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf."
Often, the focus of this story is on the Prodigal, the one who left his father's house. It is rarely addressed in ministry or teaching about his brother (that I've heard).
Every time I come across this portion in Scripture, I focus on the Prodigal's brother. Having been a 'Prodigal' myself, I'm quite familiar with that half of the story.
So, what was the young man's problem? Why was he upset when his brother returned home and why did he feel entitled to the fatted calf and the celebration above his brother?
I've learned, via first hand experience, what enters the hearts of some of those who never found themselves a 'Prodigal'. I've learned by the behavior of some, thank God not all, that the Prodigal, or a Prodigal has no privileges. They forfeited this when they left. I was even told, not by words, but by action, and treatment, that I wasn't suitable to participate in certain 'Christian' functions. I was kept out of many things even after being fully restored to the Lord.
The day I grew weary of my worldly lifestyle, I can remember thinking about how much time I wasted and what the others, who had not left, had accomplished spiritually during the time I was gone. I thought, to myself, everyone is so far beyond where I presently am. Then the shocker came when I returned.
I didn't know about this sense of entitlement thing. It definitely wasn't on God's radar or His viewpoint at all. Not one Christian has ever earned anything to be entitled to, in the first place.
The Lord, Himself, taught me an important lesson through what I experienced and it is this; cultivate, value and appreciate a relationship with Him and I will have the right Christian perspective and response toward others. Period!
The Prodigal's brother failed in that regard. He, in his heart, and mind, felt more valuable than his brother and resented his father's actions of love towards his son despite the terrible sinful lifestyle he lived. He also felt that he should not have been forgiven. Yet, the Prodigal's brother harbored a secret sin. The sin of 'Self Righteousness'. His heart wasn't right. He even failed to appreciate all that he had been given while in his father's house. He also failed to enter into what made his father happy and how he felt about his children.
The Prodigal's brother's heart was filled with pride. He was just living in his father's house, but he hadn't taken advantage of what it meant to be 'in' his father's house.
God has compassion and a heart of forgiveness for those who are lost or in a backslidden state. His greatest desire is for them to return. When a son or daughter of the Lord is truly repentant and sorry for their sin, we have a duty and an obligation to them. We are to nourish them, encourage them, and welcome them back into the fold. Better yet, when they leave the fold, we should feel a burden and some responsibility to go after them!
Since my experience, I have learned the importance of these things. I eagerly look for repentant hearts and the opportunity to embrace them.
Make sure that a person can 'See' what you 'Say' you believe!