The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. Luke 15:28 We seldom hear sermons on the Parable of The Prodigal Son from the perspective of the older brother. Perhaps it is because most people identify with the younger brother. As sinners, we have all gone astray and fallen short of the glory of God. Nevertheless, God, in His infinite and unfailing mercy, remains excited to welcome back every wayward sinner. Indeed, God never turns anyone down. Isaiah reminds us that though our sins are like scarlet, the Lord promised to make them as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). The younger brother represents every saved sinner. He embodies the struggles of those who gave their lives to Christ but are being pulled by the allure of the world. The prodigal son reminds us all of the temptation to prioritize using our gifts and talents in the world instead of using them in the house of the Lord. He also teaches us about humility, repentance, and reconciliation. Bible readers often revile the older brother for his attitude. He is frequently criticized for his selfishness and scorned for the way he responded to the banquet for his little brother. Many people see him as representing the Pharisees and the Jewish religious establishment who were not happy to see Jesus eating with tax collectors and fellowshipping with sinners. In truth, we all have a little bit of the older brother in us. When other less deserving individuals get promoted despite the long hours and hard work we’ve put in, we too get angry and disappointed. When you are the one diagnosed with cancer or heart disease even though you exercise, eat healthily, do not drink or smoke cigarettes, while others who do not take good care of their health are disease free, you can feel indignant as well. Many people become resentful as they watch others prosper financially or materially while they can barely meet their basic necessities. The older brother worked tirelessly in the family business. He was respectful, faithful, and committed. Nevertheless, it was the prodigal son that was celebrated. The older brother also needed to feel appreciated. He wanted his hard work and dedication to have been acknowledged just the same. In our humanity, we need words of affirmation and acknowledgment for our contributions. Whereas we should not harbor feelings of jealousy or envy, it is human to want to be recognized for a job well done. God knows when we feel overlooked and disregarded. He is not upset with the brother or sister, who says, “what about me?” That is why I love the hymn entitled, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,” written by Fanny Crosby in 1868. In it, Fanny says, “Pass me not, O gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry. While on others Thou art calling. Do not pass me by.” That is the heart’s cry of the older brother, ‘while you are celebrating my little brother, do not pass me by.’ I like the fact that the father went out to plead with the older brother to rejoice for his prodigal brother. God understands when we feel overlooked and unappreciated. He does not want to pass us by. God wants us to feel loved and appreciated.
Nevertheless, we cannot dictate whom God should elevate or celebrate, and when. As difficult as it may be at times, we have to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). Then our joy will be made complete as the Lord will reward us for our graciousness and love for one another. Prayer- Blessed Lord, may we not be angry or disappointed when you decide to bless and reward others. Remind us, Oh Lord, that it is in rejoicing with others that your joy will overflow our hearts.