"But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends" Luke (emphasis mine).
Unlike his younger brother's ledger that was in the red, Number One Son's books were solidly in the black. For years he maintained meticulous records just in case something like this happened and it's a good thing that he had. He was The Good Son with the stats to back up his claim.
This portion of the story reminds me of another parable, The Workers in the Vineyard (Matt. ). Once again the faithful felt gypped. Like Elder Brother Recordkeeper, this group believed their longer term of service in the vineyard warranted more recompense than the latecomers...especially the One Hour Wonders at the end.
I think the reason that some Christians want to see the wicked punished has nothing to do with justice. By golly, we sacrificed. We gave up all kinds of stuff, toed the line. We know what a good Christian should look like and we worked hard to live up to it. We've slaved away and have enough evidence to convince sinners and God alike that we're saved and going to heaven. Neither is impressed.
There's a joke that goes something like this. A man died and found himself outside the pearly gates with Peter. (How he ever got stuck with that thankless job no one knows.) "What do I need to do to get in?" he asked. "Hmmm," Peter mused. "You need 100 points."
The man was ecstatic. This would be easier than he'd ever imagined. "Well," he began confidently with just a touch of bragging, "I am a Pastor. Been one for over fifty years. Only missed one Sunday in the pulpit. That was the week my poor Momma, bless her heart, died. I'm sure that won't count against me."
Peter thought for a moment. "Ok, that's one point."
The man was appalled...only one point? "Uh," he stammered, "I...I...gave pretty nearly ten percent of my salary after taxes. That's what I got in my pocket you know. I ran the county jail ministry for the past 20 years, not that those low life criminals really appreciated my hard work and sacrifice."
Peter licked the tip of his pencil and scribbled on his clipboard. "Half a point."
"Half a point!" the man exploded. Things were not looking very good right now.
Suddenly another man arrived at the gate. The pastor recognized him as the guy who ran the gas station in town. He was what clerics call a "C&E Christian" - one who warms the pew two times a year, Christmas and Easter. He smoked and swore a lot also. Flipping Peter a wave the man walked right through the gates.
The pastor was flummoxed. If he wasn't already deceased he'd have dropped dead on the spot from shock. "What's that all about?" he demanded. "I know him. He gets to stroll right in and I've got to prove I have enough points to enter?"
"Yep," Peter smiled, "he doesn't play that game."
How about you? Is your salvation based on recordkeeping? Is it all about doing the right things in order to assure entrance into Heaven? Maybe even get a crown or two? Do you get frustrated or even angry when those without your splendid track record seem to get the lion's share of God's favor? I do sometimes.
God's not in the business of bookkeeping. It's too complicated, time consuming and no fun at all. It would ruin His party. Jesus took care of this. He balanced our account once and for all. Our part is to believe that He cooked the books in our favor, and accept it's done. It's time to stop wasting time trying to balance the ledger ourselves and come in and join the party.