The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:28-32
Parties can be a drag for me. I have been to office parties that were downright painful. I remember a summer formal party some years ago in which my big goal for the night was just to avoid having something spilled on my tuxedo jacket. Perhaps you have felt the same.
But isn’t there more to this situation than you and I having a good time? Sometimes situations call for a celebration – someone we care about is getting married, or having a birthday, or returning from military service, or finishing school, or some other milestone. Some event has happened that is worthy of celebrating. When those cases occur, what does it mean when we don’t want to participate? What does it mean when we look for excuses to be absent and then finally, grudgingly, show up intending to leave as soon as we can?
The older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son should tell us something about ourselves in that situation. He is all of us. He is so focused on his own lack of recognition that he is unwilling to provide any to his younger brother, even though the younger brother’s life has been restored. The fact that the older brother has such a negative reaction says nothing about the sin of the younger brother. It says nothing about the appropriateness of the father’s throwing the party. All it does is reveal the state of his own heart.
In those moments when we refuse to join a brother or sister’s party, when we refuse to celebrate other’s blessings, it reveals our hearts as well. We can be so selfish living our own lives that not only will we not mourn with those who mourn, we won’t even rejoice with those who rejoice. We must be peculiarly self-referenced that we will not accept another’s offer to share their joy with us.
Next time you find yourself reluctantly putting on your party clothes, take a minute to examine your own heart. It is entirely possible that the celebration will be great, and the drag is in you. Let’s repent of our selfishness and come prepared to celebrate in the joy of the Lord.