A Tale of Two Prodigals
by Steve Arterburn
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”—Luke 15:31-32
In The Return of the Prodigal Son, one of Rembrandt’s most emotionally-charged paintings, you see a father and his two sons. But if you look more closely, you’ll see a tale of two prodigals.
At first glance of the oil painting, you will see the rebellious son who takes center stage. Remember him? He is the wayward son that demands an early inheritance, leaves home to see all that the world has to offer, and comes to his senses in a smelly pigsty. In spite of his sin, he returns home.
When the younger son sees his father, he humbly admits, “‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son,’” (Luke 15:21). The father recognizes that he is truly repentant, forgives him, and celebrates his homecoming.
But if you gaze carefully at Rembrandt’s masterpiece, you will see the older son who lurks in the shadows. He is the son that does everything right and always obeys—at least, on the outside. But deep down inside, bitterness and anger consume him.
Listen to what the brooding brother says: “‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders…But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” (Luke 15:29-30).
Out of these two prodigals, which one do you identify with the most? Perhaps you’re like the wayward son who acted out; yet, believe it or not, you might actually relate more to the envious son who acted in.
And let’s face it. Whether we’re rebelling outwardly or inwardly, we are all prodigals.
Intersecting Faith & Life: It’s not too late to stop reacting and start responding appropriately to the circumstances that you are facing. No matter what you’ve been through or what you’ve done, God wants you to take your life back so that you can live with Him and for Him.
So, what are you waiting for? Go home to your Father. After all, He is waiting to welcome you home with open arms.
Dear Heavenly Father, I’m a prodigal and have wandered far from home. Today, I realize that I need to take responsibility for allowing my past and my pain to control me. Give me courage to step out of the shadows, and help me to lean into your grace-filled embrace.
For Further Study:
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