“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15: 31-32
The story of the Prodigal Son is a classic of literature. It speaks truth on many levels, and each of the characters in the story deserves a study on his own. There was the younger son who was restless and immature, and who had no idea of delayed gratification (the “prodigal”). There was the loving, patient and forgiving father who accommodated his son’s request by splitting the inheritance between his older son and the younger, more impulsive son. Finally, there was the industrious, faithful, but unforgiving older son.
Today, I want to look at the older son. From his point of view, he seemed to have a jealousy of his younger brother. In effect he said, “Why does dad favor that sinning, loser of a son with a party while I have been faithful all these years. I never left his side, but he never threw me a party. I work hard all the time, but dad throws a big party for that sinner son who has disgraced our family in the community!”
We see his sense of entitlement, his lack of forgiveness, and a lack of joy for the restoration of his younger brother. The older brother becomes the villain of the piece. Once again, Jesus turns the table on our expectations. The younger brother, the failure who returned home in shame, is lifted up by his father and celebrated as being restored. The father rejoices. The older son smolders.
Before we judge the older brother too harshly, we need to see that his attitude is not unlike ours at times. We may be quick to judge, and not see perhaps that such judgment comes out of our own sense of entitlement, or our perceived lack of affirmation by others.
I loved the way that the father responds to the older son. “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The father’s response was similar in tone to his acceptance of the younger son- loving and understanding. The father had loving responses to both his sons because he loved them both, even when they disappointed him.
What a picture of God we see here.
Tomorrow, a look at the younger son.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the lessons Jesus gave of forgiveness, and his understanding of our nature, Amen.