In the latter part of that well-known Bible parable of the prodigal son, another character takes center stage. It's the prodigal's brother. Resentful that his wayward younger brother is received so warmly on his repentant return home, he stonewalls any suggestion of joining in the rejoicing.
We could make a whole list of ''selfs'' - self-righteousness, self-justification, and so on - that must have added frost to that cold response. Chances are, we could also recognize items on that list as relating not just to the prodigal's brother but to ourselves as well.
It's a curious thing about those ''self'' sins. The brother's frigid response in effect would block, if it could, the prodigal's reformation. But more. The self-righteous brother is his own biggest barrier to claiming his own inheritance. This inheritance is something that has been present for him all along. In response to his complaints that hem was never given a chance to celebrate, his father says, ''Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.'' n1
n1 Luke 15:31.
It's that way when it comes to our spiritual inheritance as children of God, the Father-Mother of us all. The joy, the love, the peace, the health, that come from God are actually ours as His immortal offspring - they're qualities inherent in our true selfhood. Therefore they can be experienced by all of us, right now, each moment of each day. But like the prodigal's brother, we may get so impressed by our own long-suffering tolerance of others - so absorbed in how righteous we are and how bad the other fellow is - that we forget our ever-present heritage.
What can we do about this? You and I can take action, take decisive steps to cut down the size of any ''self'' list we're confronted with. It's natural to desire freedom from such bondage. We need more than desire, though. We need to honestly face up to and address the faults we find in ourselves. The labor is ours, but the solvent - the power that breaks down those encrusted errors and gently washes them away - is Love, God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''Self-love is more opaque than a solid body. In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, - self-will, self-justification, and self-love, - which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death.'' n2
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 242.
No matter how hard, how resistant, the error seems to be, divine Love is powerful enough to break down any resistance, warm enough to melt any hardness. No matter how entwined with our identity self-righteousness and self-justification seem to be, Love is gentle enough and tender enough to unsnarl us from their web. Actually, we're never in their web. They're never part of our true nature as God has made us.
God, divine Love, has created man as His reflection, the manifestation of His nature. This real man of God's creating is perfect in every way. He's not a mixture - some bad, some good, some self-love, some unselfed love. Speaking in terms of absolute spiritual facts, man is good because God is good. As we understand ourselves to be the pure reflection of Love, unmixed with anything unlike Love, we express more humility, more patience, more warmth. The ''selfs'' begin to thaw and then to drain off. We no longer freeze any progress a ''prodigal'' in our life may be making toward reformation. We no longer block our own inheritance from appearing. Joy, love, peace, health - the whole range of spiritual qualities that come from God - are ours as His children. It's an inheritance we can claim and embrace and enjoy.
As we do our part, we find that Love is always doing its part. In some way we too can hear what the father said to the prodigal's brother. The message from God to each of us is, ''Thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.'' DAILY BIBLE VERSE The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. Psalms 16:5, 6