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 (Manna 5)
Father Am I Not Better Than He
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The return of the Prodigal Son is a story well-known to Christians and non-Christians alike. It opens with a young man’s insistence that his rich father give him his share of the estate before the proper time. He wastes no time and goes to a tar-off place where he squanders the money in search of pleasure. However, famine strikes the place where he lives, he is hard pressed to sustain himself, and has no choice but to take on a job feeding pigs.

This downtrodden lad soon realises that this cannot continue. The owner does not even give him enough food. At this crucial moment, he has a shock of recognition, packs up, and heads for home, thinking wishfully. “My father may at least take me in as one of the hired hands.” And from there, the story comes to a climax at the dramatic show of forgiveness and love by the father, and the moving scene where father and son are clasped in a warm embrace. The son was dead but now is alive, was lost, but now he is found. This story illustrates the poignant adventure of a sinner: We were still living in sin, but Jesus Christ received us with open arms when we repented and returned to him.

For most of us, the Parable of the Prodigal Son would end happily with a feast and grand reunion, but the elder brother is another important character needed for the parable of Jesus to reach greater theological dimensions. The elder son is not a lazy man, idly enjoying his father’s wealth. Instead, he dutifully works for his father. When the younger brother is honoured, he is angry. He appears to be a nice person. But when he faces this situation his real nature is manifested. The provocation does not at that moment make him evil. The provocation merely brings to the surface what is inside him all the time.

God allows such unpleasant occasions to come upon our lives so that we are made to see the corruption of our nature. It is easy for us to consider ourselves spiritual when circumstances are favourable, but when we face problems, perhaps harsh criticism or any adverse situation it is easy to see the ugly ‘ego’.


The elder son’s reaction is: “Look! All these years I’ve been labouring 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!” (Lk 15:29,30). In another word, he was grumbling, “Am I not better than he?” He is full of self importance and-self righteousness.

Even though his father comes out and entreats him, he feels that he knows everything and has worked hard. He is too proud to accept correction. A mixture of jealousy and anger rules over him.

Our spirituality is perhaps never so tested as when we are opposed and contradicted. When we are criticized, the only thing that should concern us is whether the criticism is true or false; not whether our critic is a friend or an enemy. Truths might be enunciated from the lips of our opponents.

An unyielding, headstrong disposition is a sure mark of egoism. A rigid self-defensive attitude towards our fellowmen may be reflected in our attitude towards God. If we are unwilling to be taught and corrected by our brethren, it only shows how self-centred we are in spite of all our spiritual experiences and biblical knowledge.

An egoist loves to have the attention and admiration of others. He looks for every opportunity to tell others of what he has done, secretly expecting words of appreciation. He will be very upset if someone else has done better than he. He does not know how to take second place graciously and joyfully, and is upset when someone else is given leadership.

The presence of egoism in a worker of God is a great danger. Even in such sacred activities as preaching, he’ might draw people to his personal accomplishments instead of the words of God. If self-centredness is found in a leader, spiritual growth of those to whom he ministers is hindered.


In the parable the father’s love is impartial. He loves both his sons. When the younger son arrives home, he comes out to welcome him; when his elder son refuses to come in, he also comes out to invite him in with these words of consolation: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Lk 15:31). When the elder son intends to condemn, he shows mercy and compassion.

God loves us and wants to give us all that He has. But He wants us to get rid of self-centredness ‘first God does not love the harlot more than the self-centred Pharisee. He loves both equally, for He gave His life for both. And this divine love illuminates our hearts and makes our life meaningful.

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