Most of us are familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. It is the story of a young man who took his inheritance, while his father was still living, and squandered it in a foreign land on fleshly desires. When he reached the bottom of the barrel, he decided to return home and to throw himself upon the mercy of his father.
Upon his return, his father welcomed him with open arms. He placed the finest robe upon him and had a feast prepared in his honor. The father and his entire household except for one individual rejoiced at the young man’s return. The one who refused to rejoice was the young prodigal’s older brother.
The older brother had not strayed from home. He had remained home and served his father faithfully. He had not yielded to the temptations of a worldly life. He had not been caught up in the sins of commission and omission like his younger brother. His self righteousness attitude made it difficult for him to understand the fuss being made over his brother, when he was clearly the most obedient one.
While the older brother appeared on the service to be the faithful one, he had fallen captive to the sins of resentment, envy, anger, and pride. Rather than celebrate the homecoming of his younger brother, he resented the attention his he was receiving. He found no joy in the fact that his brother had seen the errors of his ways and had returned home. In his own way, the older brother had also become a prodigal.
There is an important lesson to be learned from this older brother. It is possible to be a prodigal and to never leave home. The lesson of the prodigal that stayed home is a lesson for those who have been faithful to their church and have not wandered from the things they had learned as children. If they are not careful they can develop an attitude of superiority that makes it difficult to rejoice over those who have strayed, seen the error of their ways, and come home.
When one considers the actions of the older son, this could easily be called the Parable of the Two Sons, leaving us with two important lessons. First, it is a lesson about the foolishness of turning our backs on the truth of the teachings we have received and squandering our heavenly blessings on things that can only bring temporary satisfaction. Second, it is the lesson that teaches us that it is possible to serve the heavenly Father faithfully and still not be in fellowship with Him, because of our attitude toward those who have fallen away, seen the error of their ways and returned home.
Jesus used parables to teach practical truth. Reread this parable and let God’s Spirit speak to your heart. Ask him to show you where you fit in the story. Are you the one who needs to return home; are you like the loving father who welcomed his prodigal home; or are you like the older brother who resented the attention the younger brother received? Think about it.