Repentance and Passivity (the Prodigal Son)

Category : bible, faith

Most of us have heard the story of the Prodigal Son.  We know that there are two brothers.  One brother is a major screw-up.  He’s lazy.  A partier.  A womanizer.  And he even wants his father dead.  (At that time if you asked for your inheritance while his father’s still alive, you were sending the not so subtle message of, “I want you dead!”)  He makes most politicians look good.  The other brother is upright.  He does what he’s supposed to.  Always finishes his chores.  And is loyal to his father.  He’s the ______ of brothers.

The younger brother (the screw-up) goes off and does a lot of bad things.  He gets himself in trouble and realizes he has a choice: starve to death or go back to the father he said he wanted dead.  In the end he decides it’s better to go back to his father and ask forgiveness.

When he returns home, his Dad, instead of being upset, comes running towards him.  Not only does the father forgive the son, he actually throws him a massive party.  The older brother, who has never disobeyed his father, becomes furious.  “You never gave me anything!” he yells at his father.

To me one of the strongest points of the story comes as the older brother and father are standing outside the feast to honor his brother’s return.   His father tries to reason with him, but the brother wants none of it.  We’re left wondering what the brother chooses to do.

Each brother has a choice: to return with the father or not.  The screw-up chooses to return.  He shows repentance and seeks forgiveness.  And a party is thrown in celebration.  The older brother chooses to pout.  He sits back and does nothing.  He watches from the outside as the family and friends celebrate the return of his lost brother.

We are often given a choice.  Do we choose the hard thing and ask for forgiveness?  Or do we sit back and do nothing other than pout?

This is part three in a five part series on the dangers of passivity in the kingdom. It was also featured as part of “The Daily” a short devotional geared toward helping people develop regular habits of reading the Bible.  If you would like to subscribe to The Daily, you can do so here.