What are some of the things that make you happy? I mean truly happy. While different things make different people happy—different strokes for different folks—I believe there are some keys that can enable us to experience personal happiness.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Jesus addressed the issues that relate to personal happiness in a most powerful manner in his poignant parable of the Prodigal Son as recorded in Luke 15:11-32. There are beautiful lessons as expressed in the unconditional love of the father and the reconciliation of the father with his repentant younger son. It is easy to see the analogy between God’s unconditional love and his acceptance of the repentant sinner.
But what about the older son? Have you ever either secretly or openly felt some degree of sympathy for him? I’ll admit that I certainly have. On the surface, it appears that he has every reason to be disgruntled. His irresponsible younger brother (hereafter YB) convinced their father to give him his inheritance early and then left immediately for exotic places with one-third of the family fortune. Besides that, Dad is getting old and Older Brother (hereafter OB) has to oversee the work of the farm by himself—not that YB was that much help when he was at home anyway. OB is a good, solid, clean living, hard working man and where has it gotten him? When Dad divided the inheritance he gave the older son the customary two-thirds—but Dad is still alive and everyone still looks to him as the head of the household and the business. And does Dad appreciate all of OB’s hard work? He never tells him so. He just spends his days gazing off down the road—grieving for YB.
But now that YB has run out of money and friends, having wasted his entire inheritance on an extravagant lifestyle, he comes back home and what does Dad do? He butchers the choice calf, and has a big party to welcome the undeserving YB home as if nothing had happened. He doesn’t even make him go through a period of testing to be sure his repentance is genuine. He is immediately reinstated. Dad never even killed a little goat and gave a small party for OB—and now he has killed the choice calf for his worthless, wayward, undeserving, YB. And Dad actually expects him to be happy about all this and to come in and pretend that YB has just been away at college and has come home with his magna cum laude? Not on your life!
“Dad always loved him more than me anyway,” thinks OB. “If that’s the way he wants it, let him go in there and make a fool of himself with YB. I’ve got better things to do—I don’t need either one of them. I suppose I could forgive, but I could never forget. It’s the principle of the thing. That worthless brother doesn’t deserve to be part of this family. He already has brought enough humiliation on us. I wish he had died and never come back. Better that Dad should be grieving over him, than making a fool of himself by welcoming him back home and making a party as if nothing had happened. Forget it! Count me out!”