A few weeks ago, I shared some initial thoughts on the famous parable we find in Luke, the Prodigal Son. Click here to read. I want to continue by looking at the older brother. He is perhaps the character we pay the least amount of attention to. But what can we learn from him?
The older brother became upset because his father celebrated his younger brother’s return when he, the “good” one, had always been there, serving him for years (verse 29). Why couldn’t he celebrate his brother’s blessing? Rejoice in having him back home, safe?
I wonder what the older brother did when his brother left. Did he miss him? Did he go out and look for him all the years he was gone? I doubt that was the case. I think his response to when he returned revealed his true mindset and heart. I don’t pass judgment on the brother. I think at one point or another, most of us have been in his shoes, felt how he felt.
But how can we recognize and avoid that mindset:
1. Avoid comparisons. The older brother was upset because he had never gotten as large a celebration as his brother did. Be careful not to compare your apples to someone else’s oranges. The reality is, your life and situation is unique to you. It’s hard to be the best you can be, if you’re trying to be someone else.
2. Be grateful. I think the older brother took for granted the fact that he had it good; he had it better than most. At no time did he have to search for food or wonder where he would lay his head. He was under his father’s protection and taken good care of. We must be careful not to take for granted our blessings.
3. Consider other people’s perspective. We have to remember it’s not always about us. Perhaps this lesson was for his brother to see the father’s forgiveness. And he was just a character in the story. If it feels like you’re not getting the spotlight, it might not be your time.
4. Examine your motives. Why was the older brother working hard all those years? To show his father he was the best son? To make his brother look bad? To earn a larger share of the inheritance? Or was it to please his father and be of genuine assistance? Make sure your motives are with good intention.
5. Continue to work. Galatians 6:9 tells us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give.” The brother was upset because in his eyes, he had always done the right thing. However, that is God’s expectation of us. Sometimes it feels like the right thing doesn’t pay off, but we must remember in time, it will.
Stay tuned for Part III.