Back somewhere between the invention of the wheel and the Dark Ages a group called "Air Supply" had a hit song called "Lost In Love". Actually, it was in the 80's, but that was a while ago. But that idea fits the two sons in Jesus' third parable. They were surrounded by the lavish love of a gracious father and neither of them were able to experience it. I have been examining why that was true.
The younger son got caught in the pleasure trap. He thought that fulfillment and happiness were "out there" somewhere to be captured. So he took his fortune and began a wanton search only to come up bankrupt and in bondage. He had to abuse grace to learn how to use it.
The older son was missing out because he was caught in the performance trap. He thought he could earn the father's love by his faithful service. He didn't know he could get it by grace. Unfortunately, he refused grace.
He apparently believed that since he had served the father faithfully he deserved a better deal than what he had. Since he felt he was getting cheated, he refused to celebrate with his father over the return of his little brother. It seems that people who have trouble receiving grace also have trouble giving it.
So, surrounded by lavish love, he lived feeling unloved. God's love is real. His love is free. It is unconditional. But we need to know how to receive it or we will never experience it. Feeling the need to earn love, he spurned love.
If you are like this older son and have trouble accepting the Father's love because you feel the need to earn it, learn from the younger brother. When you come to the Father confessing with a contrite heart, not expecting anything, the Father gives you everything! If you come seeking His face you receive His grace. It's not about Him accepting what you've done, it's about you receiving what He's done.
The younger son partied and the older one pouted.