Thursday, August 27, 2009
Hi there. I’m Renee Ryan and I’m blogging today. When I started pondering what to write about I found myself sitting in church during a sermon on the prodigal son. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard a sermon on this popular passage from Luke 15. Like most sermons I’ve heard about the prodigal son, this one focused on the return of the prodigal. What a wonderful lesson of repentance and forgiveness.
But I’ve always been fascinated with the “good” brother in the prodigal son story. On the surface, he seems to get the raw-end of the deal. He’s been obedient and loyal throughout his entire life, while his no-good brother has squandered his inheritance on wild living yet still gets the big welcome home party. When the older son grumbles, the father says to him in Luke 15: 32, “…we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
The message of this particular parable is that God accepts all lost people, no matter how far they’ve wandered away from Him and/or their faith. I think that’s an important message, a lovely reminder that it’s never too late to repent and that God’s grace is always sufficient. We don’t have to earn salvation. We just have to accept it.
As wonderful as this message is, there’s a portion of the prodigal son story many miss, the portion that included the father’s initial words to the “good” son. In Luke 15: 31, the father says to the grumbling older brother, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Did you catch that? Everything I have is yours. You see, the good son still has his father’s favor. He’s going to get what he deserves, eventually. Yes, the father rejoices when the prodigal returns, but he doesn’t give the boy another inheritance. That naughty boy does not get back all that he squandered. On the contrary, everything that belongs to the father will go to the obedient son. The mistake the “good” brother makes is demanding a reward he’s already been given.
Heavy stuff, huh?
I modeled the heroine in my latest release, HANNAH’S BEAU, after the “good” brother. I wanted to explore the bitterness that comes from thinking we deserve rewards simply for being good. Although Hannah is a strong, self-sufficient woman, she ultimately has to learn that obedience is always about doing what is right but it isn’t always about being right.
Life isn’t always fair. And we don’t always get our rewards up front. You see, Hannah’s twin sister, Rachel, learned early in life to use Hannah’s goodness to the detriment of them both. It is only when both sisters accept responsibility for their own actions, and release their bitterness toward the other, that either woman can move on to a healthy future full of love. And in Hannah’s case, that translates to a lifetime with her Beau. For me, I need to remember the beauty of delayed gratification. That’s a hard one in this drive-through age.