In my last post I looked at the Prodigal Son. Now let’s take the second part of that message and consider the prodigal son’s elder brother. Most people know about the prodigal son, but not too many think about the lesson the Lord was teaching about his elder brother. So let’s spare a few moments to see what the lesson is and what this means for us.
The Prodigal Sons Elder Brother
We saw in the last post some of the attributes of the prodigal son. Let us now consider the elder brother.
The elder brother is different to the younger prodigal son. Unlike his prodigal brother he does not take all he has and head off out into the world. Instead he stays back on the farm and continues to work it with his father. He is solid, reliable and stable. The scripture says, “Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command” (Verse 29)
But we also see that he gets angry and frustrated and perhaps even a little jealous of his younger brother. It says, “But he was angry and refused to go in.” (Verse 28) It says also, “I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!” (Verses 29-30)
The elder brother could not see how wonderful it was that his brother had returned. Instead he was having a “pity party.” He was upset because his father had gone to such great lengths to welcome back the younger son while he continued working in the fields.
The Fathers Message
His father tried to explain the situation to the elder brother showing him that it was a wonderful thing that the prodigal had returned. We must understand that they did not have mobile phones, twitter, facebook or even a snail mail service to keep up to date on his whereabouts, so to all intents and purposes the prodigal son was indeed lost to them.
But then the father puts it all into perspective for he shows the elder brother just where he stood. He said, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (Verses 31-32)
The father pronounced a great blessing on his elder son saying, “…all that is mine is yours.” There was nothing that the father had that the elder brother could not have had. He could ask anything of his father and know it would be granted to him and this was truly a great blessing. But the elder son simply did not realise this was the case.
What this means for us
This parable is a great teaching for all Christians. As mentioned in my previous post, great joy and merriment took place over the return of the prodigal. And what the Lord was teaching there is that whenever a person comes to the Lord, whether a sinner who repents of their evil or a backslider who turns their life around and repents of their ways, there is great joy in heaven.
But there is a message for those who have been with the Lord for many, many years and have not gone astray. These are the elder brothers who are stable and steady and continue as part of the family. The great blessing that the Lord is showing the older, mature and stable Christian who may not see all the excitement that a new Christian sees, is that they have it all. The mature Christian, like the older brother, has the full inheritance of the Father.
When the father in the parable was saying to the elder brother, “…all that is mine is yours,” the Lord is telling us that all that He has is ours. As Jesus inherits the world from the Father, we who enter into God’s kingdom through Jesus Christ inherit the kingdom with him. ALL that the Father has is ours, and that is a tremendous blessing and not to be ignored.
So if you see young Christians on fire for the Lord and seem to be receiving all kinds of blessings from the Lord, and if you are not seeing these things yourself because you have been walking with the Lord foe a while, don’t worry about it. The new Christians are being embraced by the Father and having the fatted calf killed for them as part of the rejoicing in heaven over their repentance and salvation. But you who have been in Christ a while already have the kingdom. All that the Father has is yours. So rather than be petulant and angry as the elder brother was, rejoice with those who have recently been saved and go to the party with them so you too can share in their joy. It is a wonderful thing.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Penny Mathews)