2 Ways to Save the World: Then a 3rd
There is a very famous story told in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Traditionally it has been called the story of the Prodigal Son, but upon closer inspection it is really the story of the Prodigal Sons (Luke 15:11-32).
In this story of two sons the younger son came to his father as asked for his share of the inheritance while his father was still alive. In those days, like in our time today, you did not ask for your share of the inheritance or have a right to your share of the inheritance until the progenitor died. You would not ask the organ donor for his organs before he dies- that would be like asking him to die already. In the same way to ask your father for your share of the inheritance before he died was really to wish your father dead! The son basically said to his father, ‘Dad I don’t care about you I just want your stuff, now hand it over.’
So what about the older son? The older son is given less ink-space for sure, but he is no less troubled or lost. The older son is just as self-centered as the younger son with the exception that he did not leave home and waste his inheritance. The older son said, “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” (v.29). In essence the older brother said, “I never once got even a young goat from you for how good I have been but this younger tramp brother of mine gets a party fit for kings? Thanks a lot Dad.”
You see the older brother did not stick around the past 10 years because he loved his father and wanted to serve and honor him. The older son stuck around because he wanted his service to his father to result in his own praise and success. When it didn’t he was ticked. The younger son said, “Father, I want your money, not you”. But the older son said, “Father I have been serving you for me not you”.
Jesus said both sons are lost.
The ironic thing is that both sons are out to change the world in different ways. The younger son says, “I’m tired of these rules. The problem with this life is that everyone wants to control what everyone else does. I’m tired of being judged for the things I want to do. Everyone aught to be free to live however they want to live. I’m doing my own thing. I don’t care what the law says. See ya Dad!”
But the older son says, “People are so disgusting. They care only about themselves. They live whatever way they want to live because the only thing they care about is their own desires. I’m better than that. If people just live like me there wouldn’t be any problems in the world. Scumbags.”
The younger son destroys himself and others in the destructiveness of his life. But the older son destroys himself and others by oppressing and hating people not as clean cut as himself. But Jesus tells the parable to say to both the older and younger brother; “You both think you are the savior of the world and you are both lost.”
I believe the key to understanding this whole passage is found in the first verses of the chapter. “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them...”**(Lk.15:1-2). Jesus wrote this parable to the tax collectors and sinners (younger sons) and the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law (older sons). I can’t help but think that our world is still divided into two categories today who each believe they are the saviors of the world. Well according to this passage there is a third Savior to contend with.**
There is more to be discussed in this parable for sure, but let me close with what a true perfect older brother would look like. If the older brother were as good as he thought he was he would be one who cared for the welfare of his brother just as much as his father did. He would be one who saw the sadness of his father that his younger brother was gone and would offer to leave home himself to go search for that younger brother and bring him home.
A perfect older brother would be most concerned, not for his own welfare, but for the welfare of his father. A perfect older brother would leave home in search of his younger brother because he would want to please his father more than anything else. A perfect older brother would enjoy nothing more than to see his father light up at the sight of a lost son now found.
The younger son in this parable did not have the privilege of such an older brother; but we do!
The Gospel of Jesus tells us that God’s perfect Son, the One Who did nothing wrong, left Heaven in search of us. And when He found us He offered to bring us home. But in order to return us home our inheritance, that we wasted, had to be returned as well. The Gospel of Jesus tells us that our older Brother, Jesus Christ, gave up His inheritance for us so that we could be fully restored to the Father again.
In response to such amazing grace we are asked to drop our right to be the world’s savior and admit that we need One!
I believe the only answer to the age-old polarization of older brother/younger brother, pharisee/tax collector, strong/weak, rich/poor, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican is the flattening awareness that we both need a Savior. Unless both sides humble themselves in this way they will inevitably hate each other and miss the call of THE Savior.
In excitement to share the Savior every week!