The older son in the parable of the Prodigal son becomes angry when a party is thrown for the returning son. His words reveal an obedient son:
“The older son became angry and refused to go in and celebrate. So his father came out and pleaded with him, ‘Come and enjoy the feast with us!’ “The son said, ‘Father, listen! How many years have I been working like a slave for you, performing every duty you’ve asked as a faithful son? And I’ve never once disobeyed you. But you’ve never thrown a party for me because of my faithfulness. Never once have you even given me a goat that I could feast on and celebrate with my friends like he’s doing now.”
Luke 15:28-29, 31 TPT
It’s interesting that the father did not disagree with him. It was true. He had worked like a slave for many years and performed every duty asked of him. This was his idea of what it meant to be a faithful son. His idea of sonship was working hard like a slave and aiming for perfect obedience. This would certainly please his father.
The father’s response however reveal something powerful the son had missed:
“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me by my side. Everything I have is yours to enjoy.”
The son focussed on work. The father focussed on “presence”. The son’s idea of sonship was working like a slave and strict obedience.
The father’s idea of sonship was being by his side and enjoying him and all that he has.
Somehow the older son was focussed on how hard he was working in order to please the father. The father reveals he’s already pleased and wants his presence to be appreciated and enjoyed.
The work hard mentality and attitude of the older brother is common among many Christians. It’s a trap that’s very easy to fall into. However it’s a dangerous attitude that easily results in a very subtle pride that gets angry when another is celebrated and no party is thrown for you.
The reality is the son had better than a party every day. Party’s come and go but what is the best part of a party? The company. A party on your own becomes a pity party.
The older son had better than a party- he had his father and all he owned to ENJOY EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Now that word ENJOY is essential. Once you lose your joy as a Christian (of course apart from extreme seasons of grief) you are on a slippery slope and subtle pride and anger is not far off. All you see is everyone else being celebrated and yet no one celebrates you. No-one thanks you. No-one appreciates how hard you slave for your church. Of course none of you reading this have ever subconsciously thought these thoughts.
The Westminster catechism states man’s chief purpose is to glorify God and slave for him forever. Wrong. It states man’s chief aim is to glorify God and work hard and obey him forever. Wrong. What does it say? Man’s chief aim is to glorify God and ENJOY him forever.
If you have lost that JOY and that loving feeling there is some serious readjusting needing to happen in your life. You must get back to your joy or like the older son you are going to end up the biggest party pooper around that can’t celebrate anyone else’s party because you are so frustrated and unappreciated.
We must get back to enjoying being with father and enjoying everything he has. This involves for some doing less not more. It involves slowing down. It involves relationship. It involves listening. It involves pruning. It involves cutting off somethings in order to be more fruitful. God gives you grace for what He has called you to. If you are lacking the grace and joy, it’s time to ask if you are in His calling or if He is asking you to move or change something. There is a time for everything.
Martha was a bit like the older brother when Jesus came to her house. She was, like the older brother working like a slave. And like the older brother, Martha was worried and upset by many things. She was annoyed someone else was at the party and she was busy missing the party.
Martha confused “working hard” for Jesus with ENJOYING him.
This is where it is so easy to get it wrong when you are woking hard for your master but have forgotten how to enjoy Him. In the words of my father to a missionary:
“You’ve learned how to be a good servant. Now it’s time to learn how to be a son.”
Jesus told Martha few things are needed, or indeed only one. So we need to stop looking for more things and stuff to satisfy and fulfil us. We don’t need more things we need less. In fact, we just need ONE thing. Mary chose the ONE thing that was better. Mary was ENJOYING HIS PRESENCE and enjoying Him. Are you?
This ONE thing is the key to everything. Faith comes by hearing. Faith makes it possible to do the impossible and to please God. And yet faith starts from hearing His voice. That comes from doing the ONE thing. Slowing down and enjoying Him. When you hear his voice and guidance and direction, put it into practice then the faith cycle gets rolling and incredible things will happen. Yes more gets done and accomplished when you do less of the right things.
When you do the ONE thing, you will end up doing the right thing and the results will be quite something!
To read more on this subject, this book unpacks it so well: