The Elder Daughter (a reblog of a post I wrote last year):
Luke 15:31, 32: “And he said unto him, ‘Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.’”
I am an elder daughter. I very much understand the Elder Son in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
All my life I have been competitive. I have worked hard at things and have expected to get good grades or reviews for my activities. And things have usually worked out that way.
With the exception of a couple of backslidden years, I have also spent my life as a Goody Two Shoes, the one who could either be the subject of ridicule for the many things I don’t do or the subject of anger when other parents would hold me up as an example to their own children of how to stay out of destructive activities and involved in constructive ones . . .
I am who I am, but one thing I have noticed about myself is that I often wonder about the standards Christ will use at His future judgment of believers at the Bema Seat. Knowing full well that I will only get into heaven by the grace of my Lord, who brought me alive when I was dead in trespasses and sins, I still wonder what actions I can take, partnered with His Holy Spirit, to ensure that my works will not burn to the ground on that Judgment Day!
It’s not so much that I get competitive about the Judgment. I know very well that just getting into heaven by God’s grace is an almost unbelievable truth! Any rewards will just be the icing on that cake.
It is just that I get curious and want to know how this Judgment thing will all work out. I am an elder daughter. I like to know the rules in advance . . .
My more happy-go-lucky friends don’t think about the Judgment. They just enjoy the here and now, including the Lord’s presence in the here and now, and leave the future for the future.
Neither one of these approaches is necessarily right nor wrong, when motivated by a sincere love for the Lord.
But when I get out of balance and start wondering whether God might more highly value the traits of these happy-go-lucky friends over my own traits, then God has to rush in to lovingly correct me. As he corrected Peter on the beach after the Resurrection, when Peter got overly curious about how God intended to deal with John, so He brings me back to awareness of who I am. He reminds me of the fact that I am only another forgiven sinner, like all of the throngs of people who will make it to heaven someday. And the standing of another soul before Him is simply His business, not mine . . .
He doesn’t correct me as He would an outsider. There are many passages in the New Testament in which Christ delivered diatribes against the Pharisees. He doesn’t use those with me, for the Pharisees, in general, did not belong to Him.
No, He uses those loving words of the Great Father in the parable. The Father who rushed to forgive the Prodigal. The Father who also gently corrected the Elder Son who complained that the Prodigal got a welcome back party when he never did! “Son, you’ve never been gone. You have worked alongside me all along. Why resent the welcome back party for your brother when you have had my very presence for your entire life?”
Or He reminds me of my inheritance in the words He used with Abram in Genesis 15:1b: “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”
You see, Judgment Day, like everything else in my Christian life, is in the hands of my loving Father. I can trust Him without needing to know all of the details in advance. He will be gracious. He will be loving. He will even be just, although strict justice would have sent me to hell long ago.
He is my shield and exceeding great reward. Just to live in relationship to Him is the most amazing reward I could ever receive. Just to work alongside Him, as the Elder Son did his Father, is bliss beyond description.
Even an elder daughter has to be overjoyed with that!