One faithful, one prodigal. Let us consider their words.
Luke 15:18-19 (The Prodigal) “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”
Luke 15:29-30 (The Elder Brother) “So he answered and said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’”
The story is a familiar one. Many of us have lived it. I did. I came to my senses one day in the pig pen of life and called on the name of Jesus. I remember the feeling of utter unworthiness as I considered the mercy of God that had been shown to me. I remember being the prodigal.
But time passes and we learn religion. Then we become the elder brother. We feel entitled to certain things from God, certain comforts, certain benefits. And if He does not give them we become angry and resentful. Our attitude screams at God “You owe me something and I will have it!”
Yet the prodigal says to the Father “I owe You everything.”
Those of us who have turned into the elder brother despise the prodigal because of the Father’s kindness to him. We consider ourselves more deserving, more worthy. We have worked hard, we have been faithful yet we feel unrecognized and unrewarded. Serving Him becomes a burden and we begin to resent Him. We consider the Father uncaring, distant and unloving. We despise His kindness to the prodigal and we hate the prodigal because we have forgotten that we were this prodigal.
God save us from religion.