Last week we learned how appalling it was for the younger son to ask his father for his inheritance. However, once the older brother hears of his brother’s return and subsequent festivities in his honor, it became his turn to disgrace his father. The older brother was downright furious.
He refuses to go into the party, which, more than likely, was the biggest shindig his father ever hosted. By not going into the party, he is publicly declaring his disapproval. It would have been considered quite demeaning for the father to come out and plead with the older son as he did.
In that culture, the proper way to greet a father might have been something like, “Dear Father…” However, the older brother does not bother with courteous pleasantries. He goes right to the heart of his frustations and addresses his father with a mere, “Look!” We might envision someone waving their fists while yelling, “Look, you!…” while continuing with their tirade in today’s culture. In a society where respect and deference to elders was all important, such behavior was truly ill advised and frowned upon.
When confronted by his father’s joy at the return of his younger brother, we see a powerful resentment come to the surface. We were told how obedient the older son was, so we can surmise that such disrespectful behavior was out of the norm. Suddenly, there becomes a glaringly visible proud, unkind, and selfish person. The anger we see here was a slow burn over many years.
Let’s flesh this out a bit, because its imperative that we avoid the same type of sin when possible. Essentially, the older brother exhibits the stifled feelings of someone who feels they never got what was due to them. He was keeping tabs.
The older brother is especially upset about the cost of the party. It would appear as though the father spent more on the “sinful brother” than he ever did on the “obedient” one. The latter claims he never even had the pleasure of a goat at a party, never mind a fattened calf like the former. The fattened calf is only a symbol, however, because as the choicest, most expensive meat at that time, the calf would have symbolized abundance, pulling out all the stops, etc.
It was grace on top of grace.
Abundance and then some.
The father didn’t just accept the son back; he went above and beyond to knit him back into the fabric of their family and community.
The older son compares himself to the sinful younger brother. He supposes his role and blessing should be relative to others. He thinks he deserves grace AND also that grace should be withheld from his younger brother. For some reason, his brother’s happiness has a bearing on his own level of joy.
As opposed to a both/and scenario, only a either/or scenario plays out in his mind with regard to who can receive blessings and grace. There isn’t room for both sons at the feast (or both type of people as the Pharisees would see it). One has to go, and no one puts big brother in the corner. The Bible calls this self-righteousness, and it needs to be avoided at all costs.
Have you ever compared yourself to someone else? Maybe justify an action by saying, “At least as I’m not as bad as that Karen over there…” Be careful. God sees all sin the same, and herein lies a blind spot for most of us: thinking too little of our sin can keep us from experiencing the fullness of the love of God in the same way that thinking too much of it can.
So, regardless of if we think we’ve sinned too much to come back to God (like the choice we spoke about last week) or we don’t really think our sin is that bad or even existent at all, the Bible unilaterally calls us to repentance.
Now that we have an awareness that our pride and self-righteousness can lead to sin, as it did with the older brother, we are going to examine that particular kind of lostness more tomorrow. It’s one of the most important lessons in the entire New Testament!
All my Love,
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Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!
Previous posts from the Prodigal Series
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