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The prodigal story – Beware of the fourth person

By Michaelene Brown

The story of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11–32, is a very well-known one. Throughout the years, I have heard several sermons preached on this story, and every time, something new comes up.

Some years ago, I attended a retreat for parents and sponsors of Confirmation candidates. The Prodigal Son was the choice for the day’s reflection. Members were instructed to go off to a quiet place and ponder on this Word.

When we returned some of us were asked to share what we gleaned from the story. People spoke of the father, who was so non-judgemental, merciful, and loving.

Others spoke of the older brother who could not bring himself to rejoice at the return of his younger brother. Some spoke of the prodigal son himself, who acknowledged his error, repented, and returned to his father.

However, what was most profound for me was when someone spoke of the fourth person in the story. I’d never thought of the significance of the servant who relayed what was going on.

Beloved, let’s please be careful of our tone and our motives when we speak about others. Let’s not allow ourselves to be used as the fourth person in this story, the evil voice that stirs up trouble.

So many times, we who represent the older brother, focus on another person’s past, and refuse to delight in the joy of celebrating their return to God.

We listen to the voice of the servant in the story.

“Who does so and so feel he/she is?”

“What, they’re playing holier than thou now?”

“You know they did this and that and the other, and now the priest has them serving on the altar, or now they’re singing in the choir.”

Older brothers and sisters often fall for this ploy. Now they want to fight down the young upstart or stop coming to church altogether, because they’ve been duped into that twisted web of lies within the truth.

The father doesn’t want any of his children to be lost. He pleaded with his elder son to come in and rejoice with him. However, he chose to listen to the voice that ignited feelings of jealousy and rage in him.

May we always be aware of the evil voices in our midst, that come to rob us of our own salvation, peace, and joy, causing us to miss out on the greatest celebration ever.

Our enemy is always trying to con us out of our inheritance. Let’s be mindful!

God bless us all.