Day after day, for years, Father has looked for him. Every morning and every evening, He scanned the horizon as if the little pig would come back at any moment. I’ll tell you this: I’ve never wasted a second looking for that son of His. I never wanted him back. Good riddance.
He mocked us and ran away, and he left me holding the bag. Somebody had to be responsible around here, somebody had to do the right thing, so I did. I worked the farm. I was loyal and faithful and servant-hearted and moral. I did it because I know that righteousness deserves a reward. I saw Father’s pain when that other son left and I promised myself that I would be the child Father wanted, the son He really needed. I knew that eventually He’d notice my hard work and pay me back in kind.
But He wanted the lost boy back. For some inexplicable reason, He wanted that son.
So now he’s back, and Father is ecstatic to the point of insanity. It’s heartbreaking and pathetic to see an old man run, to see him pick up his robe and fly toward that swine, to embrace him as if he’d done nothing wrong.
“Father, I have sinned,” he says. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
That’s the truest thing I’ve heard that scoundrel say. It’s also the only thing Father won’t hear. He closes his ears to his rebellious son’s confession and give the servants some instructions.
“Bring the best robe, and a ring for his finger! New shoes! Slaughter the fattened calf, because tonight we feast!” Father’s words are ridiculous and offensive. Why don’t we just give all the pigs pretty clothes and gold rings? They’re more trustworthy than that boy, and more deserving. At least they stay in the pen where they belong.
The robe sticks to his filthy skin and the Swine King smiles with delight. He deserves to be a slave and Father makes him a prince.
On the other hand, I deserve to be a prince, but I’ve worked like a slave. Every day I’ve served without complaint, or at least I haven’t complained out loud. So where’s my robe? Where’s my ring? Where’s my feast?
While Father stood by the road looking for his other son, I kept this place going. I planted the seed and harvested the crops and fed the cows. Now Father has invited everybody to feast on the fruits of my labor so we can celebrate the boy who did nothing but make us look like fools.
I won’t go in. I won’t go to any party where guests like that are welcome. I won’t accept this kind of world, where the wicked are welcomed like heroes.
Here comes Father. I’ll tell him myself.
“Come to the party, son,” Father pleads. “Your brother is back!”
I tell him I won’t go in. “This son of yours used up your money on prostitutes. I won’t eat in his presence. The stench alone would ruin my appetite. He doesn’t deserve your mercy. Where’s my fattened calf? Where’s my party? I never disobeyed, I never ran away. I’ve earned your love. All he’s earned is your scorn.”
“Son,” He says,”you haven’t earned anything. It’s always been yours for the asking. Everything I have belongs to you, just like it belongs to your brother. Didn’t you know that? Is it really possible you’ve been trying to earn what you already own? Your brother (like him or not, he’s still your brother) was dead and is alive again. He was lost, and now he’s found. We have to celebrate. Please come in.”
I won’t go in. I’ll keep my pride. I want no part of this upside-down world, where my Father’s mercy mocks my righteousness. It’s one thing to forgive, but this outrageous grace is way out of balance. This feast isn’t for me.
I won’t go in. That son of his deserves death.
I won’t go in.