The Prodigal Son Story can be found in Luke 15:11-32. Much have been said about the Prodigal Son and the forgiving and loving father. Some new insights can be found in New Insights From the Prodigal Son Story - Comfort to Parent with Wayward Child. In this post, we shall be looking at the Older Son.
The Behavior of Older Son
The mind-map below captured the acts and sayings of the Older Son.
The Older Son Syndrome - "You Must Earn It - Your Value is dependent on Your Performance"
The mind-map below show the philosophy of the Older Son.
It should be familiar to us. We use terms like "There is no free lunch", "Meritocracy", "I earn it", "I am a self-made person" etc. Not that performance by itself is no good. On the contrary, performance is good and desirable. But life does not consist of performance, or self-independent performance alone.
True Life is not just about self but about relationship of love, joy and togetherness with others and with God. We are created to have fellowship with God and others. Thereby we must have love and harmony with others.
Hence, while the world may teach us that, acceptance=performance= must earn it or else,
In God's view, acceptance comes not from performance but from relationship, as between God and man, Parent and Children, and among Friends. True Love, the foundation of relationship, is unconditional and you do not need to perform to earn it. You just have it and you will not loose it by your lack of performance. That's the kind of love that God has for us. Rom 3:20 while we were yet sinners (very very bad performance of disobedience and rebellion), Christ died for us to save us. God want us believers who received this unconditional true love to extend to others too and break free for gaining acceptance by performance (1 John 3:23).
If we believe in Acceptance or Value = Performance, then our starting state is 0, no acceptance and we work hard to gain it. This is what the Older Son fell for. He thought he needed to earn his father love by being obedient and hard working. Starting at zero acceptance, he is insecure and dare not ask for goat to celebrate with his friends in case his father disapprove. It is not that his Father is not loving, it is only that he believes wrongly. His younger brother has no worry about his father love. The younger son boldly ask his father to give him the money prepared for him. The younger son does not at first believe in performance. He only believes in it after he has lost the fortune that his father has given him. Then he revert back to worldly logic for working as a servant. But this wrong belief was blown away by his Father upon his return. His father makes it doubly clear by giving him Ring (besides the cloths and shoes) and have a big installation as son party. The emphasis is , relationship of acceptance comes not by any performance but by the love of the greater one.
When we truly know that we are loved and fully accepted before any of our performance, then we are secure and we can do even better. We do it with joy and excellence. We are not jealous of other or of their performance. In fact, we will even help them to perform better than us. We are loving, forgiving and encouraging and in short, we are joy filled.
Here is a 2x2 Matrix on Acceptance vs Performance that summarize the different worldviews. Choose the worldview you want to operate in:
Let start and live life this way --- from the position of acceptance and we perform to bring joy and glory to God and others. We will be happier and a nicer person to be with. May God bless you with this understanding of His love for you.
Lim Liat(C) 18 Sep 2012