Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 16: "Lost, and is Found"
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Thus far in the Saviour's parable there is no discordant
note to jar the harmony of the scene of joy; but now
Christ introduces another element. When the prodigal
came home, the elder son "was in the field; and as he
came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and
dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what
these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother
is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because
he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry,
and would not go in." This elder brother has not been
sharing in his father's anxiety and watching for the one
that was lost. He shares not, therefore, in the father's joy
at the wanderer's return. The sounds of rejoicing kindle
no gladness in his heart. He inquires of a servant the
reason of the festivity, and the answer excites his jealousy.
He will not go in to welcome his lost brother. The favor
shown the prodigal he regards as an insult to himself.
When the father comes out to remonstrate with him,
the pride and malignity of his nature are revealed. He
dwells upon his own life in his father's house as a round of
unrequited service, and then places in mean contrast the
favor shown to the son just returned. He makes it plain
that his own service has been that of a servant rather [p. 208] than a son. When he should have found an abiding joy
in his father's presence, his mind has rested upon the profit
to accrue from his circumspect life. His words show that
it is for this he has foregone the pleasures of sin. Now if
this brother is to share in the father's gifts, the elder son
counts that he himself has been wronged. He grudges
his brother the favor shown him. He plainly shows that
had he been in the father's place, he would not have
received the prodigal. He does not even acknowledge him as
a brother, but coldly speaks of him as "thy son."
Yet the father deals tenderly with him. "Son," he says,
"thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine."
Through all these years of your brother's outcast life, have
you not had the privilege of companionship with me?
Everything that could minister to the happiness of his [p. 209] children was freely theirs. The son need have no question
of gift or reward. "All that I have is thine." You have
only to believe my love, and take the gift that is freely
One son had for a time cut himself off from the household,
not discerning the father's love. But now he has
returned, and the tide of joy sweeps away every disturbing
thought. "This thy brother was dead, and is alive again;
and was lost, and is found."
Was the elder brother brought to see his own mean,
ungrateful spirit? Did he come to see that though his
brother had done wickedly, he was his brother still? Did
the elder brother repent of his jealousy and hardheartedness?
Concerning this, Christ was silent. For the parable
was still enacting, and it rested with His hearers to determine
what the outcome should be.
By the elder son were represented the unrepenting Jews
of Christ's day, and also the Pharisees in every age, who
look with contempt upon those whom they regard as
publicans and sinners. Because they themselves have not
gone to great excesses in vice, they are filled with
self-righteousness. Christ met these cavilers on their own
ground. Like the elder son in the parable, they had enjoyed
special privileges from God. They claimed to be sons in
God's house, but they had the spirit of the hireling. They
were working, not from love, but from hope of reward. In
their eyes, God was an exacting taskmaster. They saw
Christ inviting publicans and sinners to receive freely the
gift of His grace—the gift which the rabbis hoped to
secure only by toil and penance—and they were offended.
The prodigal's return, which filled the Father's heart with
joy, only stirred them to jealousy.
In the parable the father's remonstrance with the elder
son was Heaven's tender appeal to the Pharisees. "All that [p. 210] I have is thine"—not as wages, but as a gift. Like the
prodigal, you can receive it only as the unmerited bestowal
of the Father's love.
Self-righteousness not only leads men to misrepresent
God, but makes them coldhearted and critical toward their
brethren. The elder son, in his selfishness and jealousy,
stood ready to watch his brother, to criticize every action,
and to accuse him for the least deficiency. He would detect
every mistake, and make the most of every wrong act.
Thus he would seek to justify his own unforgiving spirit.
Many today are doing the same thing. While the soul is
making its very first struggles against a flood of temptations,
they stand by, stubborn, self-willed, complaining,
accusing. They may claim to be children of God, but they
are acting out the spirit of Satan. By their attitude
toward their brethren, these accusers place themselves where
God cannot give them the light of His countenance.
Many are constantly questioning, "Wherewith shall I
come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt-offerings, with calves
of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands
of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?" But "He
hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the
Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?" Micah 6:6-8.
This is the service that God has chosen—"to loose the
bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let
the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke, . . .
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh." Isa.
58:6, 7. When you see yourselves as sinners saved only by
the love of your heavenly Father, you will have tender pity
for others who are suffering in sin. You will no longer
meet misery and repentance with jealousy and censure. [p. 211] When the ice of selfishness is melted from your hearts,
you will be in sympathy with God, and will share His joy
in the saving of the lost.
It is true that you claim to be a child of God; but if this
claim be true, it is "thy brother" that was "dead, and is
alive again; and was lost, and is found." He is bound to
you by the closest ties; for God recognizes him as a son.
Deny your relationship to him, and you show that you are
but a hireling in the household, not a child in the family
Though you will not join in the greeting to the lost,
the joy will go on, the restored one will have his place by
the Father's side and in the Father's work. He that is
forgiven much, the same loves much. But you will be in
the darkness without. For "he that loveth not knoweth
not God; for God is love." 1 John 4:8.
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