The Enemy of Love: Bitterness
The story of the prodigal son gives us a wonderful illustration of God's love. Jesus told the Pharisees this parable to reveal how the Father cares for human beings and delights when an errant child returns home. However, the Pharisees were lovers of law, order, and the appearance of righteousness. They probably identified more with the angry sibling than with the prodigal or the father.
The older son had already allowed bitterness to take root as a result of his younger brother's departure. Even so, he was apparently proud of his appearance as the "good son," just as the Pharisees would have been (Matt. 23:27). Often forgotten in this story is the fact that there was an inheritance for the older brother too—the land he was working and the animals he tended would all one day be his. In other words, he lost nothing when the wanderer returned.
Yet the brother was eaten up with anger. Instead of rejoicing over the prodigal's return, he complained about the celebration (vv. 29-30). Jesus' unspoken question to the Pharisees was this: Which son is it better to be like—the one who repented of wasting his inheritance or the one who served the father but showed no love to his contrite brother?
Human nature often desires recognition for doing right and yet begrudges a celebration for someone else. However, the believer has taken on Christ's nature. Through His Spirit, we can love those who need it most and rejoice with them in their triumph, even when our own victories go unnoticed.
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