Every time I’ve heard the sermon about the prodigal son, the emphasis has always been placed on the lost son who returns back home. The lost son who was dead in sin but through repentance and humility decided to return to his father’s house ready to do anything just to remain in his presence. I’ve often disregarded the elder brother simply labelling him as the salty one and often times judging him. Like why ain’t you happy for your bro??? Why you mad ????
In my own criticism of his behaviour towards his brother I’ve failed in trying to understand where his anger stems from. I think It happens to the best of us, when we always do what is right in God’s eyes we tend to start feeling a sense of entitlement, deserving of recognition. In most cases we want to be looked at as the hero, the one who is good in comparison to everyone else who might have made poor choices. Once the people we’ve judged to be underseving of God’s grace receive it we do get salty when they get the very things we’ve been desiring regardless of their past we get salty. We become like the elder brother in the parable, in his greatest weakness he failed to understand that the grace of God is not dependent on what you do, or how Good you are rather the mercy and love of our creator.
Self righteousness is often clothed in good works. We try so hard to do good, to impress anyone looking to feel vindicated based on our good works and in most cases it becomes easier to see the sin in others rather than yourself because you judge yourself to be good. You can do good, follow all the rules, while your heart is so far from God because you start believing that you deserve the goodness you receive because you’ve done everything right.
In the parable, both the elder and younger brother demonstrates whom we don’t want to be. One was so eager to leave home to experience freedom only to realize it was all vanity. while the other did all the right things Day in and day out thus cultivating a sense of entitlement and self righteousness where he couldn’t understand that he needed the grace and forgiveness as much as his younger brother despite his good works.
The mistake we make when we think we are good, because we’ve always done what is right in God’s eyes is that we tend to expect God to act in the same way towards the people we’ve judged to be less deserving of his mercies and grace. Thank God our father is not like us, his ways are contrary to our natural response to people we judge or think we are better than.
What I’m learning constantly is to burst my self righteous bubble anytime I judge myself to be much more deserving than the other person. To constantly keep my eyes on Christ means even with my greatest works it remains utterly pittiful compared to what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Once we internalize that we are alll sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy how can we ever judge ourselves to be good. What is good in us appart from the goodness of our father.