The Parable of Reconciliation
The parable of the lost son was really about two lost sons. The older brother who was the performance based person was actually the central figure in the parable. The parable was given to the Pharisees to bring them to their senses and so the older brother represented them. So here are the two critical sections from the parable that illustrated the problem of performance-based religion.
11 And He said, "A certain man had two sons;
12 and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' And he divided his wealth between them.
Notice that the father's wealth was divided between the younger and older brother. According to the laws of the time the older brother would receive twice as much as the younger brother. But at the end of the parable the older brother complained that the father had not given him anything, not even a goat to celebrate with his friends. But the father responded and said:
31 "And he said to him, 'My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
So here is the spiritual reality, a religious, performance-based person will always live with a sense of deep poverty. They are always striving to gain something and they don't actually believe they have anything. Notice that in this parable the younger son when he returned was given everything. So not only was Jesus emphasizing the terrible perspective that the Pharisees had on sinners, but he emphasized the true poverty of the legalist or performance-based person. You and I as believers have been given everything in Christ. We are spiritually rich beyond our imagination, and should start living that way.