“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’
“But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’
And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”
When you see someone’s scantily clad relative in church for the weekend/wedding/baptism/birth, sitting under the preaching of the gospel, and wonder why on earth no one is saying anything to her about it, why she’s even there, doesn’t she know it’s not right to dress like that?
When the church you’re visiting doesn’t “do” praise and worship the way to which you’re accustomed and you decide to shame everyone by barely opening your mouth and adopting a stiff countenance, despite their obvious sincerity.
When women who you can’t fathom being mothers joyously announce pregnancy and it takes every fiber of your being to congratulate them without feeling sorry for yourself or disgusted with them.
When you can’t, for the life of you, seem meet nice people and get married, when friends who are clearly not going about it the right way are all gettin’ hitched.
When you and your resume can only get so far in the job search before face planting hard, while people around you seem to snap their fingers and get a job.
When people you didn’t guess could possibly have a good marriage seem to have it easier than you.
When, no matter how faithful you are to God’s word, how rigorous your Bible study, how consistent your participation in corporate worship, how cheerfully you obey and serve Him, you don’t get the reward you expect.
You submitted to Him. You gave Him your life. You follow Him and His precepts. And yet no one is parading you out with the fattened calf.
You become angry, bitter, your pride stung and writhing, and you spit in your spiritual fury, “I will not go in to His celebration! God broke the contract! He refuses to honor me!”
How foolish we are.
Contract, indeed! God searched for us in the pit of sinful bile and mud. He reached into our blackened souls and sparked His fire. He didn’t do any of it because we held up our end of the bargain. We don’t receive blessings when we “do good things” or when God decided to play fair. The mere fact that believers aren’t destined for fiery eternity in the depths of hell is unfair and has nothing to do with ourselves! Even if there was a contract, we would break it within moments of signing it.
Which makes it simultaneously ridiculous and sad when believers react to God’s sovereign, unrevealed will with seething contempt and bitterness. Has God really stiffed us of happiness? Have we really suffered so much? Did God ever promise earthly rewards and happiness as His follower? Do we really deserve the fattened calf more than the brothers and sisters whom God chose to honor? Is not Christ and His sacrifice for us the true reward?
All praise to our merciful Father, who, despite our childish fits of anger and refusal to rejoice in His grace toward our brothers, comes out to plead with us and bring us in to the feast!