Ask for that goat.

The elder son is an important character in Jesus’ parable known as “The Prodigal Son”, although we often overlook him. He only shows up at the end, dissatisfied with his father’s lavish acceptance of his wayward brother. His dialogue is filled with anger and bitterness. “Look!”, he spews, “All these years I have slaved for you and have never disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat for me to celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29-30).  His words are biting as he charges the father with being dismissive and uncaring.

There are many questions we can ask. How long had he viewed his father as hard-hearted slave-owner, rather than a loving parent? How long had he harboured feelings of such profound dissatisfaction?

The intriguing thing in the parable, of course, is that his charge against his father appears baseless. Jesus presents the father as a man of consistent character. He gives lavishly to his children and goes out to them, meeting them where they are. There is no demand, no rebuke, no punishment; just the simple and loving offer to delight in the father’s goodness.  The father acts the in same way for each child.

So why these feelings? Commenting on this passage, the Scottish preacher, Andrew Murray, poses an insightful question: “Did the son ever ask for a kid?” While we will never know the answer to this question, as it lies outside the parable, it’s a good question to ponder. Did the elder son ever speak to his father and request a display of goodness and love?  Did he ever try to hold a celebration with his friends and request the killing of the fatted calf. Or did he assume that the fatted calf would never be offered to him?  Did he believe that he was not worth such a wondrous gift?

These questions help us look deeper into the parable, and into our own lives. If we choose to see ourselves as a slave before an unloving master, then we will read such a dismissal into every situation; our self-imposed unworthiness will play in the background of our lives.  For the elder son, the existence of the fatted calf spoke not to its availability for him, but only of its distance. He believed that it would never be offered. Perhaps he believed that the father’s goodness was reserved only for the special elite. And so, despite the father assuring the elder son that “you are always with me, and all that I have is yours”, he never accepted this reality. And because he never accepted it, he never acted upon it.

What are some of the good things of God that you would like to experience? What do you hope for? Do you seek those loving gifts from our heavenly Father? Or do you assume that such blessings will be withheld?  Despite God making God’s way to you in the person of Jesus, and offering you the purest expression of love and grace imaginable, do you still assume that you must earn your keep?

There may be many reasons why you might feel like the elder son, yet this is not how God sees you. From God’s perspective, you are not discounted or dismissed. You stand before a loving God who offers you the full depth of delight and blessing. The divine invitation to receive God’s blessings remain upon you.

You do not live in spiritual scarcity; God is bountiful and lavish, and longs to bless you.

If you feel like the elder son, trapped and alone, take a moment and see yourself in this parable. Imagine the scene as it unfolds around you. Picture yourself standing before your heavenly Father. He invites you to join him in the banquet, and to experience his rich delights. Hear the love in his voice as he says to you “My child, all that I have is yours.” And with the words of the Father, resounding in your heart, take up the grace-filled invitation.

Pray for what you want. Ask away. This doesn’t mean you will receive an automatic “yes” to every request; even the most welcome request can be untimely. Still, our heavenly Father welcomes our asking. In the end, asking for our blessings isn’t about getting what we want, it is about living in a relationship with the Father and enjoying the blessing of his presence. So ask for that goat, and enjoy the Father’s delight.

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