Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.”
– Luke 15:11-12
There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end leads to death.
– Proverbs 16:25
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, what caused the younger son to ask for his share of the estate? Why do you suppose the father agreed?
The younger son breaks the relationship with his family. The father enables him by giving him his portion. He doesn’t disinherit his son. Was the son’s decision a good one? How about the father’s? Jesus doesn’t explicitly say, but implicitly we know the answers.
“You Ajax,” I screamed at my older brother in anger. “Ajax” was a tolerated word in our family of four brothers between the ages of six and thirteen. It didn’t rile Mom like her forbidden words did. When Mom heard those, she began the punishment with, “I never want to hear that word again.” I can still feel my ear being yanked while she coaxes a thick bar of white Ivory soap between my clenched teeth.
The reasons I yelled at my brother were unspoken. The issues were left fermenting until the next time and the next. When I was 10, I chased him with a pair of scissors. He shut the thick hardwood bedroom door, and the scissors scratched it. A punishment by Dad brought necessary peace, but parental interventions left emotional scars and little chance of reconciliation. Our childhood younger-brother-older-brother conflict was never resolved and lay quietly submerged during our adult relationship.
Some fifty years later, after the death of another brother, we talked. “You were always Mom and Dad’s favorite,” he mused. “No matter how successful I was in business,” he said,” I could never win their favor.” I listened intently. We talked it out and, over time, built respect and love for each other.
Proverbs 16:25 reminds us that doing things “my way” doesn’t always work out. My brother’s unspoken childhood grudge and my resentment for his teasing broke any chance of a deep relationship until we spoke about it. The prodigal son finally, when he experienced the reality of life lived on his own terms, asked his father for forgiveness. His father rejoiced in his return with grace and celebration. However, the story does leave us with some relationships unresolved–did the older brother ever come around? What we can be sure of, however, is that to the degree that it is possible this side of Heaven, God longs for reconciliation. Sometimes all it takes is a step toward the other person.
Reflect on your grudges and resentments. Whether a family member or friend, consider praying for that relationship. Is there room for reconciliation? If so, ask God to make a way and walk in it. If not, pray for God to give you the grace to forgive and heal and trust Him with the outcome.