In a parable, Jesus once spoke of a young man who had decided to take his inheritance and go off into the world to live a life on his own. With time, he squandered his entire fortune on frivolous things and ended up having to survive on pig feed. When he finally overcame his pride and shame, he decided to return to the prosperity and comfort of his father’s house.
He was met by his joyous father, who ran towards him and treated him like a prince, even calling for a feast to celebrate his return.
His eldest brother, however, did not understand why their father would treat his sibling so joyously after everything he had done. He argued with his father, saying that he had remained beside him the entire time, but no feast was ever arranged in his honour. The father explained to his eldest son that everything that was his belonged to him as well, and that his brother, who had been thought dead, was alive, and that is why they should rejoice:
‘And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”’ (Luke 15:31)
We see three people in this parable: the prodigal son, the elder brother and the father. Through them we can identify certain traits in Christians today. The word ‘prodigal’ means wasteful, and just like the young man who squandered his fortune, there are many people who receive the teachings of God and His blessings, but are still determined to live their lives the way they see fit. They waste their opportunity for a good life, thinking that everything will be fine, but soon realise that they are unable to live without the Father. Although they should have stayed in the Father’s house, their return is a reason for celebration.
The elder brother describes people who find it difficult to celebrate the blessing of others who they think to be unworthy. They think they’re worthier of receiving God’s recognition because of what they’ve done or how long they’ve been in the faith. And it doesn’t help when they are sometimes overtaken by newer or returning members who are honoured by God, while their own lives stay the same. That is what we must always remind ourselves of: We do not serve God in order to get His recognition or compliments from others; We serve Him because we are servants and He is our master. If not, we run the risk of developing grudges and malice, which could ultimately influence us to leave the Father altogether.
Both of these examples are wrong to follow, but the third one is worthy of praise. The Father is the one who we have to look up to. He had compassion towards the son who left him and patience towards both. He didn’t consider what his sons did or were doing but saw them as lives that had to be saved. He saw their souls, and that is how we must see others. Regardless of what people do or say to you, see them as souls that needs saving. Have mercy, pray for them and continue to give love, because as you give, the Holy Spirit touches and changes them. When you begin to see people this way, you forget the material things and focus on the salvation of their soul. And when the soul is with the Father, you rejoice without worrying who it is or how it happened.