“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….’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.’” Luke 15:29,31
You can go to church, keep the ten commandments, and have everyone think you’re a good person, yet miss true intimacy with God. The older brother in the story of the prodigal son represents the Pharisees who were also listening to him and grumbling to themselves, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2) The name Pharisee means, “separate one.” These guys kept all of God’s laws outwardly, went to synagogue all the time, and presumed that they were pleasing to God because of their performance. The older brother was angry that the father had received back the prodigal because he felt that his younger brother didn’t deserve forgiveness and the party his father threw for him.
In the text quoted above Jesus tells of how the older brother had served the father and kept all of his commandments. The brother then complained that nothing has been done to reward him for all of his performing. He was living more like a slave than a son and was waiting for the father to pay him. The father says, “you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.” You can’t work for what is already yours. If he wanted to have a party all he needed to do was ask. That is how grace works.
Galatians 4 tells us that Jesus was born under the law so that he might “redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” It goes on to say that the Father has sent His Spirit into our hearts so that you and I are “no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7) We could never have become God’s children by the law of performance because His holiness demands a perfection we could never obtain. So He sent His own Son who lived perfectly under the law and then died as a sacrifice for all of us who have broken the law. We become His children by receiving His grace.
Sometimes we lose track of grace when we’ve been in the church awhile and begin to think that we are worthy of the place we have in Christ because of all our service. It is important that we keep the “amazing” in grace, remembering that He came to save and love undeserving people just like us.