The Sin of Older Brother

Now the man’s older son was still out in the fields working. He came home at the end of the day and heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. The servant said, “Your brother has returned, and your father has butchered the fattest calf to celebrate his safe return.”

The older brother got really angry and refused to come inside, so his father came out and pleaded with him to join the celebration. But he argued back, “Listen, all these years I’ve worked hard for you. I’ve never disobeyed one of your orders. But how many times have you even given me a little goat to roast for a party with my friends? Not once! This is not fair! So this son of yours comes, this wasteful delinquent who has spent your hard-earned wealth on loose women, and what do you do? You butcher the fattest calf from our herd!”

The father replied, “My son, you are always with me, and all I have is yours. Isn’t it right to join in the celebration and be happy? This is your brother we’re talking about. He was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found again!”(1)

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. Public Domain
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. Public Domain

On March 14 and 15, Pastor Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús spoke at Westbrook. At the end of his time, he read Luke 15 in its entirety, and taught through each parable. When he got to the story of the Prodigal Son, he made an observation in the text that I had never realized: at the end of the story, everything left that belongs to the Father is actually the older son’s inheritance. Think about it, everything that belonged to the younger son was already given to him and now all that is left is, or will be, the older son’s property. Then Pastor Choco said that reconciliation is always expensive.

In the story of the prodigal son, the cost to reconcile his younger needed to be paid by his older brother, but he did not want to pay it. He did not want to sacrifice any of his inheritance for his brother to return to his place as son.

I have always identified more with the older brother because I grew up in the church and never left. It’s easy to get a judgmental attitude toward those who runaway from God and then come crawling back. It’s tenting to say, “No! You had your chance. I’ve stayed here and been obedient and your can’t have any of my inheritance since you squandered yours.” How many times have I sat in the place of the older brother and looked down on those who squandered their gifts from God?

In reality, we are all the younger brother, even if we grew up in the church. We have all sinned, even the best Christian is still a sinner. Thankfully, our older brother didn’t withhold his inheritance. Jesus laid down what belonged to him that we might be restored as God’s sons and daughters. Jesus shows us what the older brother should have done and what we should do when our brothers and sisters return to their father like we did. Let us not live out the sin of the older brother who refused to sacrifice for his brother, and instead life like the real older brother, Jesus, who willingly gave his life to reconcile us back to God.

(1)Luke 15:25-32 from The Voice Bible, Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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