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The Prodigal Son's Older Brother


Everybody understands how wonderful it is that the father graciously receives his wayward son who ran off and blew his inheritance in the famous parable by Jesus, "The Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32). The father runs to him and throws a party for him, taking him back wholeheartedly after the son had been so immature and rebellious.


The son receives forgiveness and a chance to repent and try again. The father gets his son back and can rejoice that he learned his lesson.


Most people also can understand why the older brother has a pity party (verses 28-30) and refuses to come inside to the party. After all, he didn't run away from home and squander his inheritance on wild living. He stayed with his father, kept his nose clean, and did his duty in the family business.


But what most people don't understand is that the older brother is actually sinning, in his petulance and jealousy, just as much as the younger brother sinned. That's because the older brother had been treated fairly by the father.


In those days, the older son received a double portion of the inheritance, twice as much as any younger son. So this older brother would have received two-thirds of the father's estate, while the younger one got one-third. It's not that way in most families today. But the first-born usually has privileges and rewards compared to younger siblings; that's just the way it is, and always has been.


The older brother also was wrong because it was not his business to judge the younger brother's transgressions, nor the father's joyous reaction. By pouting and refusing to celebrate, the older son actually became as lost to his father's love as the younger one had been by fleeing.


You should never let suspicion and bitterness keep you from totally forgiving people who've hurt you, especially when they repent. Join in the party, wherever you are, and share in the joy!



By Susan Darst Williams Heart Lessons 010 2006


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