Everything I have is yours, the father tells the elder brother (v. 31, NIV). What amazing words! As the elder son, he is entitled to two-thirds of his father’s possessions. Since his younger brother has already received his third of the inheritance, everything left will eventually belong to this man. When his father dies, he will also take his place as head of the family and a leader in the community. Much has already been given to him and more is on the way. He has been blessed indeed.
However, what the older son seems unwilling to claim is the relationship the father offers. The son feels alienated from him and is angry because of it. The father, who extends grace to the prodigal, extends grace to this son too. He reassures the angry one that the younger son’s presence affects neither the father’s affection for the elder son nor the elder’s inheritance. Both are secure, and always have been.
Who of us does not need to feel loved? Indeed, we thrive when we feel loved by family and friends. Sadly, though, relationships can be fragile and uncertain. Loved ones may hurt, abandon, or even reject us. Yet, there is someone whose love for us is unfailing.
Jesus offers this parable in response to the Pharisees and scribes’ complaint that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. They need to hear that their inheritance is not diminished by God’s love for others. They also need to know that they have no right to draw boundaries that exclude others from God’s presence.
Everything I have is yours. This is the promise that a loving God makes to all of us.
When does an expectation that we are owed God’s love because of our works keep us from experiencing the joy of God’s undeserved grace?
Loving God, our amazing Grace, may we put entitlement or expectation aside and receive your gifts with astonishment and gratitude. Amen.