In our culture, we’re often led to believe that if we try hard enough, we can achieve anything. We think we can earn our way to prestige, success or recognition. It’s true, many times our efforts do lead to job promotions, awards, educational degrees or even just a pat on the back.
But should we try to earn a “gold star” from God, too?
The story of the prodigal son, told by Jesus in Luke 15:11-29, shows us that trying to earn that gold star isn’t the answer to receiving God’s love and grace. In the story, the son who has spent all his money on “wild living” returns to his father for a second chance at life, which the father readily grants, along with a lavish party. The person in the story who is sometimes overlooked is the brother.
The brother of the lost son stayed with his father, continuing to work hard and to live in his father’s favor. He was angry and jealous when the father welcomed the wayward brother with open arms. “In all that time, you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends,” he said (Luke 15:28).
Sometimes we get caught up in our checklists for how to do something right, and yet we still feel like we’re doing something wrong because we don’t get a party.
God’s grace is the key. By seeking and extending his grace, we unlock restoration. Even while we are doing what we feel is right for God, for the church or for the sake of being “a good person”, we continually need restoration that only comes from God. Otherwise, we may start asking or even demanding rewards for ourselves, which places us further from Him.
In my last talk at Alive Church, The Sound of a Party, I spoke about the prodigal son as well as the obedient brother, who thought he was missing out on the party. When we accept God’s grace, we always have a reason to party.
Have you ever felt like the prodigal son’s brother?