“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" (Luke 15:28-30 NIV)
When we read the story of the lost sons we tend to concentrate on the younger son with his rebellion and then his homecoming. We identify with him as there is so much that is familiar to our own journey. Whenever we think of the older son we tend to point the finger at other people rather than look at ourselves. For a moment, therefore, I want us to look at our own heart and see how we respond in the same way as the older brother. He too was lost. Although he lived in his father's house he behaved like a servant - he was not home.
In these few verses he responds in four ways to the invitation to join the party and welcome his brother home.
His responses are: I've always served you, I've never disobeyed you, you've never given me anything and 'but this son of yours'. How telling they are! As we stop and think, we can see how they very often mirror our own response. We may not be so aggressive as the older brother but we often feel justified because we have always tried to do the right thing, as a servant rather than a son. Interestingly, it's the last response that is the most telling. The older brother doesn't see the return of a brother but rather the father's son - he's distancing himself and then proceeds to make assumptions and accusations. How does he know how his brother spent the inheritance? (we're not told in the story).
All too often we do the same thing. Our self-righteous servant heart leads us to make judgments and accusations which show that our heart has not found its home. Next week I shall look at how the Father responds to his eldest son, because, he too, needed to come home.
(If you're interested, my complete teaching on this is here: https://vimeo.com/344836487)
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