From Resentment to Gratitude
By: Pastor Pete Grassow
Luke 15 The Prodigal Son
Intro: There are a number of really well known parables that Jesus told: we learn them in Sunday School and repeat them to our kids –
I can think of the Parable of the Good Samaritan / the Sower and the Seeds – but the most preached is the Parable of the Prodigal Son: we know all about the son who took his inheritance and ran away from home: who came to his senses and returned home…
Do you know that this parable is not just about a son who ran away: it is really a story about two sons:
Listen to it again..
11 Jesus went on to say, “There was once a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the property now.’ So the man divided his property between his two sons. 13 After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. …..
17 At last he came to his senses’ 20 So he got up and started back to his father.
25 “In the meantime the older son was out in the field. On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him, ‘What's going on?’ 27 ‘Your brother has come back home,’ the servant answered, ‘and your father has killed the prize calf, because he got him back safe and sound.’ 28 The older brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in. 29 But he spoke back to his father, ‘Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! 30 But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!’ 31 ‘My son,’ the father answered, ‘you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’”
Intro: From Resentment to Gratitude
His younger brother had abandoned his responsibilities on the family farm to go off to the city and do whatever he liked. Not only that – but he had taken some of the family money with him…..
And just when everything had settled down – and things were returning to a new normal: the young man is back… and his father was welcoming him with a party.
I really do understand the resentment of the brother who stayed at home: Surely loyalty should be rewarded!
This cuts close to the bone:
“Resentment is the curse of the faithful, the virtuous, the obedient, and the hardworking” (Henri Nouwen).
Jesus tells this story about the two sons in a specific context:
Luke 15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 So he told them this parable:
The religious leaders of Israel were complaining that he was telling sinners and social outcasts that God loved them…
and that this was unfair because surely God should love only those who were faithful and loyal. And Jesus says that this is not how God’s love works: God’s love is freely given – both to those who think that they deserve it, and to those who know that they do not.
If we are honest: we who are religious struggle with this: we want God to be conditional: to reward those who are good and punish those who are not (and obviously we expect that we will be among those who are rewarded!)
Here’s the core teaching of this parable: Some might have strayed further from home than others – but we have all strayed…
Romans 3: 23 tells us that none of us deserve God’s love – because all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…
Rom 3:23 everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. Rom 3:24 But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.
Lutheran Biblical scholar Helmut Thielicke suggests that this parable should be called “The Parable of the Waiting Father”:
The father waited for both sons, because both had strayed from home: The one son went far away and the other son went only as far as the garden – but they both were not in the home:
And the Father waits for them both with equally gracious love….
This is the way of God – is called Grace: the abundant favour of God offered to all people: So the challenge of today: to move from Resentment to Gratitude.
The best way to deal with our resentment is to take our eyes off our good deeds – and see the goodness of God: To return to the parable. Listen to the complaint of the older brother:
What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! 30 But this son of yours wasted all your property on prostitutes, and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!’ 31 ‘My son,’ the father answered, ‘you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours
The father is saying: “Take you eyes off the one feast I have given your brother, and you will see the size of the blessings you already have…”
Let us too take our eyes off the blessings other people have – and see our own blessings.