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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Receiving the Love of the Father


Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. “Your brother is back,” he was told, “and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return." The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet, when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!”

—Luke 15:25-30 NLT


The Parable of the Prodigal Son is told in Luke 15:11-32. Yesterday, we examined the father's love for the prodigal son who had returned home after sinfully squandering his father’s money. Today, we look at the older son’s relationship with his father.


The father loved his older son just as unconditionally as his younger son, who had returned home. But in the older brother’s mind, you only killed the fatted calf for those who deserved it. However, from the father’s perspective, the fatted calf needed to be killed for his younger son, who had been lost but was now found. The father saw his younger son as deserving of his love.


Grace makes no sense to the natural mind. Astonishingly, God became a man to give His life to the undeserving. That is exactly what the Lamb of God did. He died for those who didn’t deserve it. He died for us—the sinful, corrupt, immoral, ungodly! Even though we were undeserving, He saw us as deserving of His life.


The older brother was not like the younger brother. The younger brother came home believing he didn’t deserve the Father’s acceptance and love. The younger brother had nothing to give but everything to receive. The older brother worked hard to receive what his father would freely give him. He tried to earn what was already his instead of freely receiving the privileges of being his father’s son. While the younger brother received the love the father gave freely, his older brother was a slave to prove he was worthy of the father’s love. His striving produced jealousy, anger, bitterness, and resentment. 


The father wasn’t upset by the elder brother’s unforgiving heart. The father didn’t condemn him for his jealousy and anger, just like he didn’t condemn his younger son for his choices. Just as he had a heart of forgiveness for the younger son, he had a heart of forgiveness for the elder.  The father continued to reach out to the older son with love and grace.


This older brother condemned his younger brother just as the self-righteous condemn those who receive a relationship with the Father through faith instead of their works. He didn’t identify his brother as his brother but called him his father’s son. This reveals a very bad attitude on the older brother’s part. Those who are self-righteous say sinners aren’t worthy of a relationship with God. They are right. But neither are they worthy of God’s love. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Our relationship with our Father is a gift, and we have to receive it freely as a gift (Romans 5:15-18).


Those who believe a relationship with the Father is comparable to their work for Him become upset when someone undeserving receives grace (Matthew 20:1-15). They think it isn’t fair. Well, it’s not fair. It’s grace. If the Lord gave us what we deserved, we would all go to hell. When self-righteous people see someone receiving grace they believe isn’t deserved, they see it as God rejecting the work they have done for Him.


The father had always been there for his eldest son. He could have enjoyed a relationship with his father at any time. But the eldest son wasn’t working for his father’s love. He was working for the things he could get from his father. Those who serve God only for what they can get will always be jealous of others who are blessed.


Proverbs 13:10 states that pride causes contention. If the elder brother hadn’t been self-centered but served his father out of love, he would have rejoiced to see his father’s happiness at the return of his son. But in the mind of this older brother, it was all about him and what he deserved. He didn’t want his brother to receive anything he thought belonged to him.


In the same way, people who only serve God because they believe their work earns their heavenly Father’s favor will be jealous of others whom God blesses. Instead of rejoicing at God's blessings for others, they will be upset and question why they didn’t receive that blessing.


Both sons had their father’s unconditional love. The younger son knew he was undeserving, while the elder thought he was deserving. It took the younger son’s sinful loss to bring him back to his father. The younger son was able to receive his father’s love freely. The older son’s attitude revealed the insecurity of a slave trying to earn a place of honor with his master. The father always honored his older son. But the older son had trouble receiving what was freely given by his father.


Are you God’s child who receives His love freely?  Or are you His child who strives to earn His love that is already yours? Your heavenly Father loves you. There is no list you must perform. There is nothing you must do to prove yourself to Him. He desires to fellowship with you. To experience the joy of your relationship with your Father, you must receive His love freely as His beloved child. 


Grace be with you, my friend. May you receive mercy and peace from God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in truth and love (2 John 2:3).




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