The Parable of the Prodigal Son comprises three central figures – the father, the prodigal, and the older brother. While a substantial portion of the narrative focused on the prodigal, the title of the parable in fact points to the real target audience rightly being the older brother. After all, the Lord was addressing a complaint from the Pharisees and scribes about the sinful company Jesus was keeping.
I point our attention to Luke15: 31 – the father’s response to the older brother who complained about his once-profligate sibling. The father said, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.”
Let me categorise the reality that escaped the older brother – he had presence and provision without limit. He had the two most highly-prized assets in the household, and yet, neither realised it nor luxuriated in them. Unfortunately, this is the sad prognosis for most of us.
The availability of Father God to us is without limit. There’s no limitation on time nor place. When pastors meet members for counselling, there’s a limit on time. Not only that, we’re not available to the congregation all the time and at any time or place. But, to look to pastors to fulfill that in our lives is to sell far short what we each have been given by the Lord.
Father God is available and accessible to all of us. His Presence isn’t about a feeling, it’s about His promise to us. He watches over us and guides our lives. If we lean in enough, we may hear His voice. His Scriptures become alive as He speaks to us in the most inward areas of our hearts.
Not only that, His provision is also available to us. It’s not just for our needs, but also for the works that He has prepared for us. Over and over, we’re assured that, as He looks after His creation, surely He provides for us. It doesn’t mean His provision will fall into our laps from the sky. But it does mean that, when we put our hands to the plough, the ground on which we labour will yield its fruit to us.
In this current crisis confronting the world, aren’t these two things what’s needed most? His Presence assures that He’s with us and in control of the situation. It brings us peace that surpasses all understanding. I think the safe distancing measures are good for driving us to realise we’ve something more valuable than our social activities of shopping, eating, and entertainment (even tuition). If you’re concerned about your livelihood, know that He’s also our provision. He’ll provide bread for the eater and seed for the sower.
I conclude with this: when we’re given presence and provision, and we fail to live in them but fill our lives with the presence of others and place our trust in the material provision itself, then we’re no different from the prodigal who left home. Worse still, we remain dignified on the outside like the older brother, and that’s exactly what the Pharisees and scribes were.
In this season, let’s not forget to come to the reality of His presence and His provision – we’re sons and daughters in our Father’s house.