By Evan Pyle


God’s grace and love is the antidote to judgmental, critical and self-righteous attitudes. His grace and love also provide the antidote to selfish, profligate and sinful living. Both conditions and their cure are dealt with in Jesus’ account of the Prodigal Son.

Luke 15:11-32:
And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 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:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

The attitudes of the three characters are seen clearly in the reading of the story. First, there is the loving father. Then there is the selfish, foolish and sinful son. Lastly, there is the self-righteous and critical son. As Christians who are the same time flawed people, I think we can identify with each of these people and their attitudes. How many times have we grown impatient with the failings of a brother or sister? We think, why can’t they just get it together? And we grow critical and cold.

We are all different people with different talents and gifts. Some do the work of God with apparent ease, for others it seems to require considerable effort. Some are naturally good writers and speakers. Some have a tendency toward slothfulness and negligence, others are more naturally industrious and ordered. Whatever the case, we all have in common a selfish and sinning nature. This nature manifests in different ways, typified by both brothers in our story. Though I know we have identified with these characters, I submit that we have failed to see that we are the prodigal, and we are his self-righteous brother. Jesus is talking directly to us, to our hearts. We have taken the Father’s riches and squandered them. We have lived foolishly. In short we have sinned against God and have become loathsome and stinky, not the sweet-smelling savour he called us to be. We have been feeding on the poorest of food and we feel very, very alone. Oh, how great our need for repentance at all times! God is incredibly lavish in his love and grace. That is how he will receive you right now. He will embrace you with tears of joy, clothe you with clean, sinless garments and place you before a lavish feast.

There are some things the prodigal did to be an active participant in and recipient of God’s grace. First, he fully realized his true state. Then he decided to arise and go to the Father. And he determined to be as one of his Father’s servants. True unselfish and uncritical living is born of us experiencing the same attitude as the prodigal. Just think about it. We are unworthy of even one good thing. We have no rights here upon earth. Yet we are blessed with grace and peace through Christ. A true revelation of this makes one meek and tender of heart and ever ready to serve. The spirit of a servant makes us willing to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily, denying ourselves and following Jesus. We will always face a cross, our cross. Our human nature would like to avoid it and get rid of it. But each new day the servant-son gratefully looks to Jesus and shoulders the cross. This is the essence of accepting God’s grace for daily living.

With the spirit of grace we give up our rights to retaliate, nurse grudges, hold malicious thoughts, grumble, or to look smugly and in disdain on those in error, or to feel we deserve a special reward for the good we have done. There is no happier place where one feels more secure and restful than in the will of the Father. Remember, he accepts us when we arise and go to him in repentance.

One wonders if there are too many saints who attempt to serve God by abstaining from certain evils and by doing certain good works. They are missing the point of serving the Master from a heart overflowing with thankfulness, willingly and with joy.

John 15:8:
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

With a revelation of the prodigal’s servanthood we will capture the true joy of giving and willing service, done simply in devotion to the master. We will have found the secret of how to love others unreservedly. May we all find this joy in service and rest in the Father’s love and acceptance today.



From the March 2002 issue of The Vine & Branches