A man had two sons

Readings for September 15, 2019

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32


The parable of the Prodigal Son begins with, “A man had two sons.” This is not only a great line to start a story, but also a pointed foretelling of one of the story’s lessons. 

The first son, the “prodigal,” of course, is shown great mercy and love by the father. But as a result the second son, the “obedient” son, becomes jealous. “‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’”  

The Pharisees behave similarly when earlier in the reading they complain of Jesus, “He welcomes and dines with sinners.” But when they say this, the Pharisees, like the “obedient” son, are blind to God’s love and deny their own sinfulness, setting themselves apart as non-sinners, which is, of course, not true of any of us. 

The fact is, both sons in the parable received the same abundant love from their father, just as all sinners received the same love and invitation to dine with Jesus. But as the “obedient” son demonstrates, sometimes it can be difficult to recognize the love that has been given to us–especially when we are too busy focusing on the love and the blessings that have been given to others. And in our jealous hearts, it is difficult to see love poured out for someone else without wanting that love for ourselves, believing we have done more to earn that love. Meanwhile, we fail to recognize that the very love that we covet is already present in our own lives.

But it is. 

So the next time I sense my own jealousy over someone else’s happiness, and the blessings being bestowed upon them by Our Father, I must ask myself “can’t a Father have two sons? And can’t he love both of them?” If today I see God’s love being poured out to someone else, instead of sulking in my pettiness and forgetting that God has always and will always love me just as much, shouldn’t I, instead, join the party in celebration of the good things bestowed upon my brother or my neighbor? My response to God’s amazing love needs to be to love in return. How much better is a celebration of love than is a pity party? 

“He welcomes and dines with sinners.” As a sinner, I say thank you Jesus! Thank you for the love and acceptance, and thank you for your mercy and patience as I work to set aside my own jealousy and remember to join in the celebration. For when Christ is Lord of Heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing? 

My Lord Jesus Christ, your mercy knows no bounds and I am forever grateful for your love. In welcoming sinners to your table you are welcoming me. Help me to understand and seek your love and mercy in all I see and do. I ask this in your name, who lives and reigns with God our Father, in unity with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

9 thoughts on “A man had two sons

  1. Thank you for sharing your own insights into this parable! I think it is so important to appreciate the love that God has for us every day and to not compare it to what others are given. God welcomes us back when we go astray, and he provides so much for those who are obedient to him. I write about this parable in my own posts and related to the scientific field of positive psychology, which asks what it means to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. I find this field and my christian faith background to be very complementary, which fuels my passion to share these observations to others. Feel free to check out the blog sometime and I welcome any contributions you may have to the content. Great post, I hope you are doing well, and God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard/read a few good interpretations of the prodigal son, yet I have never applied it this way with regard to coveting others and being thankful for my blessings. I like your take! Ah, the beauty of parables–they can teach several lessons through one story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. On the bell curve of theological reflection, I tend to be an outlier. 🙂
      Yes, many lessons from the stories Jesus tells. I believe that’s intentional on his part. Mostly, though, my reflection came from discerning the similarities with the start of the reading (He welcomes and dines with sinners) and the other 2 parables told (lost sheep, lost coin). Jesus’ “wouldn’t we all do this?” questioning had me thinking, when wouldn’t I do the same? Out of jealousy? Yup.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When I am going through times of great sorrow, I find I am most vulnerable to being jealous of others experiencing blessings from God or fruit from their labor. Thanks for the reminder that we should celebrate with others in their joy, the joy of the Lord.

    Liked by 2 people

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