ODJ: rules and grace

March 23, 2014 

READ: Luke 15:1-32 

The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him (v.28).

Students in a Christian school lined up at the lunch table to get their food. At the head of the table was a pile of apples. A teacher made the following note and posted it on the apple tray: “Take only ONE. God is watching.” At the end of the table, next to a large tray of chocolate chip cookies, a clever student placed this note, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”

This cute tale illustrates two different kinds of people—those who follow rules and those who break them.

In response to the Pharisees complaining about Jesus socialising with sinners, He shared a story about two brothers—one obsessed with rule-keeping, the other a rule-breaker (Luke 15:11-31). The youngest brother, the rule-breaking “prodigal son”, usually gets the most attention. But let’s briefly consider the rule-following older brother.

Furious that his father was throwing a huge welcome home party for “this son of yours” who broke every rule in the book, he spouts off at his dad, “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to do. And in all that time you never gave me . . . a feast with my friends” (vv.29-30).

The older brother’s tirade says it all—a life controlled by rule-keeping turned him into an embittered slave who was just as lost as his brother.

The father (who represents God), however, was just as gracious with his older son as he was with his younger. When the oldest refused to enter the party, the father “came out” to see him. And rather than scold, he gently pleaded with his son to join the celebration (vv.28-31).

Are you like the “older brother”? Join the party of God’s grace. It’s for you too! —Jeff Olson

1 Samuel 9:1-21 ‹365-day plan

Read Mark 2:23-28 and see how Jesus challenged the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Sabbath rules. 
How does your life tend to be dominated by rules? Why is it important to follow God’s commands but also to understand His grace?