The story of the prodigal son is a story that most of us know and love. It’s a story that we are familiar with, a story that makes us feel better, that teaches us grace, that allows us to know that God love us, no matter what!
We love reading that story. We love hearing that story. And for many of us, when we read or hear that story, we picture ourselves as the older brother, returning home, feeling the love of the Father. But, the prodigal isn’t the only brother in this story.
There’s an older brother. And, for many of us that are believers, we have what I call the older brother syndrome. Listen to what happens in Luke 15: 25-32:
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
The older brother did everything right. He behaved. He acted like he should have. He had his stuff together.
He is the one that we want our kids to grow up and be like. He is a good guy.
But yet, here he is as well when his brother comes home and says, huh. That’s not fair. My no account, good for nothing brother comes home from wasting his wealth, and he gets a party. And yet, here I work, and nothing. I get nothing. It’s not fair.
And the father reminds him that his brother was dead and is now alive. And that is to be celebrated. Not resented.
So, today, to those of us that may be tempted to be older brothers, tempted to look down in judgement at the prodigal coming home, tempted to think, huh, why them? Look at all that they have done! And look how good I am! I’m the good one! I’ve got it all together! What about me!
Let’s stop. And breathe. And remember. That we too are saved by grace. That we are all prodigals. That we can’t earn it. And that God loves us. No matter what.
Let’s be slow to judge. And quick to give grace. Let’s celebrate the when the lost come home, and when the messy, broken, prodigal comes home, let’s be thankful. Not full of judgement.
Because as much as we older brothers are tempted to think that we have earned it and have it all figured our, remember this. We are just sinners saved by grace.
We are just prodigals coming home.
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