humility and the prodigal son

humility and the prodigal son

Originally published on September 27th, 2006 at Onward & Upward

It was several weeks ago when I found out about the “arrangement”. In my line of work, you have to pay close attention to details in order to avoid mistakes. (That’s probably true for any line of work, but especially in graphic design.) A misspelled word on an ad that’s printed 150,000 copies isn’t a good thing!

I am very detailed-oriented – that’s one of the gifts God has blessed me with. I love my job because I don’t have to be a big picture thinker. My boss a few months ago complimented me by saying that she appreciates my carefulness, that our company has never had a credit relating to one of my jobs.

One of my coworkers isn’t as blessed to be detail-oriented. Not to say he’s a bad worker, but he just struggles in that area more. That’s when I learned of the arrangement that my boss made with him. If he went x amount of time without any mistakes, then he would get a (desirable) prize.

I burned with envy. I’ve gone months without making mistakes! Where is my prize? Should you reward someone for doing the bare minimum? Should I just do the bare minimum so I can get a prize too? What about going “above and beyond”? Is there no reward for that?

Now before you think this post is a rant, let me say that these thoughts didn’t consume my time. I knew immediately that wasn’t a very good attitude to have, but I wasn’t sure why. Yes, I mulled over the idea of an employer rewarding their employees. However, more I wondered why wasn’t my attitude correct?

The story of the prodigal son kept coming back to me. One son did everything wrong, ran off, squandered his inheritance, then came back to his father on his hands and knees. It’s a beautiful story about forgiveness and of Christ’s unfailing love for us no matter what we do. Yet there’s another part of the story that’s puzzled me – the part of the older son. The one who did everything right, who didn’t make the mistakes, who stayed by his father, and who wasn’t honored. That wasn’t fair either! His father should have done something for the good son too, right?

Last night at Bible Study, we were talking about humility when the answer hit me. The problem was the older son didn’t have humility. He was looking at himself and his own accomplishments, and comparing him to his wayward brother. The prodigal was proud, too – but was forced to swallow the pride when he found himself feeding pigs. The prodigal went back to his father humbled. The older brother’s pride kept him from truly rejoicing over the return of his brother. His pride kept him from acknowledging that his Heavenly Father might have other, more wonderful plans in store – and it’s not for us to judge who is “rewarded” here on earth.

With these thoughts, I think back to my coworker. I should be overjoyed that he is working to minimize the mistakes he’s made, and that our employer is gracious and understanding. It’s my own pride that keeps me from having peace and happiness. I pray that God continues to grant me humility as I stop comparing myself or be jealous!

“A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor…. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.Proverbs 29:23, Proverbs 11:2

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