Matters of Faith: A Question of Attitude

Luke 15:27-29
27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ 28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.

The parable (an earthly story with a heavenly meaning) of the prodigal son is well known in communities of faith. It tells the story of a son whose selfish attitude made him demand of his father the inheritance customarily given after the death of the parent so that he can go and live his life on the wild side. The father consents and gives his son his share of his birthright. After living large and wild, squandering all of his resources, the son is reduced to feeding pigs just to survive. He finally comes to his senses and decides to go back home where he would beg his father for forgiveness.

This son exemplifies the kind of arrogance, pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony and laziness that’s all too often exhibited in today’s society. From a Biblical perspective, they are all signs of sin. However, there is a definitive and observable shift in his egotism. He is not the same man at the end of the parable as he is in the beginning. There is a change in his attitude. He is remorseful for his past actions and goes to apologize to his father. What a blessed conclusion to a horrific start. But, he has a brother!

His elder brother did not ask for his inheritance. He didn’t leave his father’s house. He did not throw his life to the wind. He never veered from the rules of his father’s house. Yet we find out that he is just as contemptuous as his younger brother, maybe more. It’s one thing be overtly sinful, but quite another to be a one in secret.

When this son got word that his brother had come back home and that their father had arranged for a huge party to celebrate his return, he became angry and refused to attend. His father even came out to plead with him to join the celebration. “No!” was his reply. “I’ve been with you all these years an you have never given me a party. But when that son of yours who lost all your money comes home, you throw him a big shin-dig.”

The younger brother was guilty of sins of the flesh, but the older from sins of the spirit. The younger brother was outside of his father’s house but came back in. But the older brother stood outside the house and refused to go in. We refer to the younger brother as the prodigal (wasteful, reckless, desolate, uncontrolled, and extravagant), but the older brother was a prodigal also. He was willing to squander his father’s generosity by refusing to recognize that he had the right to extend the same big-heartedness to his brother as he has been enjoying all the years he was in his house. It was a question of the attitude that both of the sons displayed.

John C. Maxwell says in Attitude 101, “A poor attitude will take you to places we don’t want to go…., a good attitude puts you in the place of greatest potential” (p. 25). You can and sin by commission (younger brother) or by omission (elder brother). Just remember that at the end of the parable, it was the elder son who was outside of their father’s house. An attitude of repentance bought the younger son home, while an attitude of self-pity, resentment and hostility keep the elder brother out. It’s all a question of attitude.

Rev. J. Loren Russell is an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx, President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial Strategic Consulting, host of “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” on Soul 1 Radio, Mondays 8:00 – 10:00 PM (Dial-in#: 626-226-1448), and author of Matters of Faith: The Book.

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