Plot Twist: Week 10 - Day 4
Lord, let your wisdom meet me here today as I study the words of Jesus. Amen.
Read: Luke 15:27-29, NIV
“Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So, his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.”
Today’s scripture occurs when the father throws a massive feast celebrating the return of his lost son. Here we encounter the older brother angrily refusing to join the party for his younger brother. The elder son highlights how upright his behavior has been “all these years” as he, essentially, says the father’s easy acceptance of the younger son is unfair.
This outburst and refusal to join the party reveals the motivation behind the elder son’s dutiful behavior. He’s motivated by what the father can give him, not by love of the father or a desire for true connection. His actions have been a means to control the father, to get what he wants, and to have a say in how family affairs are handled. The elder brother’s attitude is reminiscent of Jonah getting angry when God doesn’t destroy the corrupt but repentant Ninevites (Jonah 4:1-4).
Unfortunately, this is a trap many Christians get caught up in. When we behave correctly we believe our prayers should be answered accordingly or that we should reap the benefit of being “right”. We are upset when things don’t turn out as we planned because, after all, we’ve been doing the right thing this whole time! This thought process is just flat-out wrong. It’s simply not how the world works. Jesus shows us through this story, it’s fully possible to do all the right things and still be wrong.
Have you ever done the right thing for the wrong reason? That attitude is partly what Jesus is condemning in this story. For example, I remember serving with my high school youth group to be around a boy I liked. I didn’t have a humble, servant heart; I had a teenage girl heart. That’s a silly example but we’ve all done something good, at one time or another, with selfish motives. Doing God’s work with ulterior motives is a way of showing you value what the father can offer you over true communion with his heart. As much as God cares about our actions, the motives of our heart are of even greater importance. Examine your heart today - is it aligned with Christ’s?
God, help me keep my heart in the right place as I seek to follow your will. I love you and, above all, want to further your kingdom on earth. Amen.