Genesis 13-15 / Matthew 5:1-26
“All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders… But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” Luke 15:29-30
The parable of the Prodigal Son describes the magnificent love of a father who welcomed back his son who did not deserve it. We should celebrate this message, for we are all sinners in need of God’s love, yet undeserving of it. It is helpful to understand why Jesus told this story. Sinners and tax collectors had gathered to hear Jesus preach, and the Pharisees and teachers of the law were grumbling about His teaching. This moved Jesus to make them aware of their own broken relationship with God and the possibility of reconciliation.
The younger son came to realize his father’s love for him only after he had reached the lowest point of his life. His father’s love had always been there, but the son only experienced that love after acknowledging he was not worthy of it. He had humbled himself and was eager to go back home as his father’s servant. When giving into our sinful nature, living only to please the flesh, we will find ourselves hitting rock bottom, because eventually nothing will satisfy. But just as the father was overcome with joy at his son’s return, God rejoices over a heart turned back to Him.
The older son, however, was jealous. His father decked his brother out in the finest robe and instructed the best calf be killed for a great feast to welcome him home. The older son believed he was more deserving as he was the one who stayed home and served his father; the loyal obedient son who kept the rules. This part of the story Jesus directed to the Pharisees. It told them how little they knew of God’s love, and that it was not earned by strict adherence to the rules. It is a gift of God available to everyone, but these were cold, dismissive men who looked down upon sinners. The teaching of Jesus infuriated them.
Like the Pharisees, some of us might be in danger of intellectually knowing God, but not fully understanding how He operates. Perhaps we have never been broken enough to have been impacted by a deeply felt sense of humility. For many of us, it is only after we are stripped of pomposity and self-righteousness, acknowledging that we are undeserving of the kind of love that put Jesus on the cross. A humbled heart does not demand to be loved by God as He loves another, but recognizes we are truly undeserving, yet greatly blessed, to receive God’s love. A humbled, repentant heart is the only gateway that opens us up to experiencing God’s love and God’s love is what transforms our lives.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, keep me from a pious, self-righteous attitude that prevents me from personally experiencing Your love. Instill in me a humbled, repentant heart that bears witness to Your love. Thank You, Lord.