The Older Brother

Luke 15:25-32
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 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.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
     In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus shares a parable that has resonated with believers for centuries - the Parable of the Prodigal Son. While the narrative of the younger son's repentance and return is often the focal point, the character of the older brother offers an equally profound lesson for Christians today.
    The older brother, who had been faithful to his father, becomes resentful when his rebellious younger brother returns and is welcomed with open arms. He is unable to share in the joy of his brother's return, focusing instead on the perceived injustice of his father's actions. This attitude, often referred to as the 'older brother syndrome,' is something that Christians today must be wary of. The older brother's attitude mirrors that of the Pharisees. He had been dutiful, obedient, and faithful, much like the Pharisees who meticulously followed the law. Yet, when faced with the return of his repentant brother, he responded with resentment and indignation, unable to celebrate his brother's redemption. This is reminiscent of the Pharisees' reaction to Jesus' ministry, particularly His association with tax collectors and sinners.
    In our walk with Christ, it's easy to fall into the trap of the older brother. We may find ourselves looking at newcomers to the faith, especially those with a past of sinfulness, with skepticism or even resentment. We might question why they receive the same grace and love from God that we do, despite our long-standing faithfulness. This mindset, however, is contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the heart of God.
    The parable reminds us that God's love is not a zero-sum game. His grace is not a limited resource that needs to be rationed or earned. Instead, God's love is infinite, boundless, and freely given to all who turn to Him. The father in the parable represents God, who rejoices when a lost soul is found and returns to Him. As followers of Christ, we are called to mirror this joy and acceptance, not harbor resentment or judgment.
    The older brother's attitude also reveals a misunderstanding of his own standing before the father. He saw his relationship with his father as one of servitude, not sonship. He believed his faithfulness earned him his father's love, not realizing that his father's love was freely given, not earned. This is a crucial lesson for us. Our relationship with God is not based on our works or righteousness but on His grace and love for us. The Pharisees, like the older brother, had a transactional view of their relationship with God. They believed their righteousness earned them God's favor. They failed to understand that God's love and grace couldn't be earned but were freely given. This is evident in the older brother's complaint to his father, where he believed his years of service should have earned him a celebration.
    Jesus used this parable to challenge the Pharisees' self-righteousness and their lack of understanding of God's grace. He wanted them to see that God's love was not exclusive to the 'righteous' but was extended to all who would turn to Him, even the most 'unworthy' sinners. He wanted them to understand that God's kingdom was not about earning a place through works, but about receiving a place through grace.
    As Christians, we are called to rejoice when a sinner repents, not because they have earned their place in God's kingdom, but because they have been freely given a place by God's grace. We are called to welcome them with open arms, just as the father in the parable did, and just as God does for us.
    In conclusion, let us strive to overcome the 'older brother syndrome.' Let us remember that God's love and grace are boundless and freely given to all who turn to Him. Let us rejoice when a lost soul is found and returns to God, for this is the heart of the Gospel. And let us always remember that we are children of God, loved not because of our works, but because of His grace. We must guard against the Pharisaic attitude represented by the older brother. We must remember that our righteousness comes from God, not our works. We must rejoice in God's grace, extended to all who turn to Him, and celebrate when a lost soul is found. We must remember that we are all recipients of God's grace, and as such, we should extend that grace to others, welcoming them into God's family with open arms and rejoicing hearts.

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