Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. …. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. (Luke 15:25–28 KJV)
The parable of the prodigal son has three main characters: the prodigal son, the father, and the prodigal son’s elder brother. Though the primary message of this parable is the father’s love for his lost son, Jesus added the elder brother to the story to highlight a crucial truth for God’s people.
In this parable, the elder brother was offended after learning the family celebrated the prodigal’s return. When questioned by his father why he acted this way, he was honest in his response: the father had never given him anything to celebrate. But as soon as the prodigal son came back – after squandering his inheritance with harlots in reckless living—the father made a party.
The Father’s response to the elder brother is the message of this devotional and a crucial one for the Church: the elder brother was waiting for his father to give him what has always been his. Everything left in the house, after the prodigal son left, belonged to the elder brother. He never used it and never asked. He waited for the father to give him what had always been his. Besides the many sins the prodigal son committed, there was one positive trait he had: he knew how to ask for what was his, though he did not know how to use it properly.
In summary, the prodigal son’s brother had two problems. First, he was working to earn what was his. He did not know how to use the gift from His father—the law mentality. Second, he got offended when someone else benefitted from God’s kindness—the offense of grace to legalistic people. Beware of the syndrome of the prodigal son’s elder brother.
Read more: The Prodigal Son: the main message.
What was the problem with the prodigal son’s elder brother?
Apply the Word
Learn to use what God has freely given to you; avoid working to earn what is yours!
Ask the Lord to help you learn to receive and enjoy what Christ has provided for you.
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