The “Perfect” Son

Image: Rembrandt's Prodigal Son Wikipedia Commons

Image: Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son
Wikipedia Commons

Let’s continue reflecting on the wonderful story Jesus told of the Father’s immense love for us. Trying to share the conferences I heard on the parable of the Prodigal Son became a daunting task that stalled me, so I’ll just take a few moments to share my own thoughts about the elder son–the son who stayed faithful, who stayed home with his father and did all he could to do what he believed  the father expected of him. I suspect that, if you are visiting this blog, you may be among those who still remain (or, like me, who have returned) home.

What Jesus is asking us to do is to stand back and take a look at ourselves…an objective look. The elder son remained with the father and worked hard–but look what happened when the younger brother returned home–that kid who had demanded his inheritance up front only to go and waste it on dissolute living. Big Bro was really ticked off. No, more than that, he allowed resentment to consume him.

Doesn’t this make you wonder why he bothered to hang around. I suspect it was because he wanted to get something from it. He expected a return on his investment and just couldn’t come to understand that the love of the Father is not based on what we do to earn it, but rather is a gratuitous gift, overflowing with love. Dipping into the Old Testament, I’ve encountered how the loving kindness of God shows up, again and again, in spite of the total infidelity of the Hebrew people, the people he chose for himself. So it is with us.

There are other sins, too, that those who are “good” sons, or “good” Christians may be guilty of–gossip, judgmentalism, pettiness, ignoring the needs of others, perfectionism…it’s darn hard to measure up to those demands of the Beatitudes. Yet, they too need the Father’s forgiveness.

Jesus doesn’t really tell us the rest of the story. Did the elder son catch on and come inside and join in the celebration? I wonder. He would surely be missing out on the Father’s abundant love if he stayed outside and moped.

Note: In Rembrandt’s portrayal of the parable, check out the elder son. He’s the one standing way in the back, in the shadows. The artist really had a deep understanding of Jesus’ story, didn’t he.


4 thoughts on “The “Perfect” Son

  1. inc says:

    I too wondered about the big bro. Cuz sure, he did do what was right all that time. Didn’t he have a right to be upset? I bet I woulda taken the same reaction, had it been me, I often thought.
    Then I had met someone through work who had told me about how she would go visit her Mom (by domestic flight) at least once a month. Then she mentioned that her Mom owned a home and land – and that her Mom would never give them to her sister, cuz her sister was incompetent (or sumthing like that). In my mind, I wondered if the reason her visiting her Mom every month was to really visit her – or cuz she wanted to make sure that property went to her? Investment visits, per se? Your post reminded me about having wondered about that.
    My fav part about this prodigal son story is of how the father waited for the son and ran towards his son first. Beautiful.


    • I think most of us, like the elder son, would feel some resentment. The story about the daughter you refer to hits home. I live at a distance from my 95 year old mother. I hope the rest of my family doesn’t think of my visits as an investment visit. In my nursing career I, sadly, saw that time and again. One of the sad things is, the distant son or daughter was usually the one who came down hard on the health care staff. My view is that they were acting out of guilt and grief…regret for being away. It is hard to live at a distance from one’s parents, but sometimes there is no choice.

      Liked by 1 person

      • inc says:

        Yes, I agree. Sometimes there is no choice.
        Then there are those adult children who stay with their patient parents and come to the hospital almost daily. My sis often told me about an elderly lady whose son would come to be with his Mom almost daily. He was the worst, most demanding patient family member. He’d make complaints to the hospital about his Mom’s care – but sadly, his Mom is one of those patients who have continually asked for assisted death. Even my sis had been clung to by his Mom, asking if she could be helped to just die, because she didn’t want to live anymore. Surprisingly to the staff there, she had lived in that hospital for over a year. And just about everyday, her son would be there to complain about his Mom’s care, and smirk when he got his way.
        So in this case, a family member who comes to often, had not been a good thing. Thanks for sharing your story, Victoria. I like your name. That name and Isabel are pretty names, in my opinion.


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