Prodigal Series Day 11: Older Son, A Different Lostness

By now, we’ve well established that there are two different kinds of “lostness” playing out in this parable:  the outwardly visible variety and the more inward-facing variety. Also, remember that each brother corresponds to either the sinners or the Pharisees, so we also have another level of storytelling happening: Jesus is pointedly emphasizing out the weaknesses of each camp in his audience.

The older brother was spiritually lost (and, by association, the Pharisees).  It’s much more elusive than the undeniable sinful life of the younger brother.  Timothy Keller, pastor and author, dubs this as “Elder Brother Lostness”.  The latter brings as much misery to others and the offender as being lost in a distant country.

Here, then, is Jesus’ radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of spoken or unspoken rules. Jesus though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as lost as the most offensively sinful person.


Because, in this light, sin is not just breaking the rules. It occurs when we elevate ourselves to a place that is only reserved for God: a place of judgement. It occurs when we believe we have “arrived” and totally get life, faith, and all the things (spoiler: we never will on this side of eternity). We may think we are incapable of sinning, or…at the very least, not as frequently and deeply as others. These are all symptoms of elder brother lostness.

Here’s a loving word of caution: elder brothers almost never even know they are lost.  In understanding how this spiritual lostness manifests, however, we will be equipped to better see it in ourselves.  If we don’t, we risk never being able to repent and change our prideful ways.

In this light, the younger brother has the advantage: there’s no denying he is lost. He can choose to go home.  Older brothers, though?  They haven’t a clue.  They will remain in their sinfulness, aloof and unawares, blind to their fatal condition.

In fact, the older brother (and Pharisees) would have taken complete offense to the very suggestion that he was rebelling against the father’s authority. No one had ever taught anything like this before the parables in Luke 15.

Remember, this parable is aimed at the Pharisees.  Jesus wanted to reveal to them who they were, as well as others who are ridden with pride, and urge them to change.

By the grace and provision of God, there is a way out of this type of sin as well, so all hope is not lost, even for those who suffer from elder brother lostness.  That will be our focus for tomorrow!

All my Love,


Accompanying Playlist

Did you know I created a worship playlist just for this series?!

Celebrate a good, good Father who is always calling and welcoming his children home!

Previous posts from the Prodigal Series

Miss one? I got you covered! All teachings from this series are found here.

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