Can We Learn From the Prodigal Son's Brother?

We like stories, don’t we? We relate best to stories. And we all have one. In fact, we gather daily stories that we can’t wait to share with anyone who’ll listen. Do you suppose that’s why Jesus told stories in the way of parables? I think it is. He told forty of them. I re-discovered this fact the other day. My study Bible listed them on their own special page, in order. And of course, I counted them. And there are forty. I found that interesting and this is not at all where I am going with my thoughts today. Just one of my classic side notes 😉

We’ve all heard the story of the Prodigal Son. But did you know that this is not the only title this parable is given? It’s also called The Father of Two Lost Sons. I’m sure somewhere there’s a list of the different titles, but have you ever looked at this story as being about anyone other than the one son who left? In fact, there are few of us who even realized that the son who stayed home is also lost. What, wait? He stayed home. He stayed with his father. How can this be? Read it here.

Today, I’d like to focus on the son that stayed home. There is so much to unpack in this parable between the three main characters. The father and two sons. And since most of the time this story is hugely focused on the son that left, I’d like to focus on the one who stayed.

3 Things we can learn from the Prodigal Son’s brother.

He was full of bitterness

Although his bitterness was not displayed like the younger brother, it was just as deadly. It was still sin.

Choose to be content. Unexpected lesson from the Prodigal Son

Did you ever notice that the older son failed to honor his father? Did you ever notice that he took his share without any argument or taking the opportunity to rebuke his brother and hold him accountable? Do we act just like this?

What can we learn from his lack of contentedness?

Choose to be content.

Be content with what you have. Hebrews 13:5

God wants to give us a content heart.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with me. Psalm 51:10

Stop trying to hide it and admit the problem.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Be diligent in keeping your heart in check.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble. Hebrews 12:15

He was a fake

He was perceived as near to God, but he wasn’t anywhere close to Him.

He was out in the field working. He couldn’t have had a good relationship with his father. He was too busy out working and making himself look good. He was trying to keep up appearances. Why do you think he was so angry when he came back and heard the celebration? Because he hadn’t been patted on the back for his work. He hadn’t been elevated for appearing to be committed. He was too busy comparing himself to his younger brother.

What can we learn from his wayward heart?

Confess it.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Walk with Jesus.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. 1 John 1:7

Be on the look out.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

He has a bad attitude

He had an unhealthy string of attitudes including selfishness, contempt, and jealousy to name just a few.

He was so focused on himself he couldn’t see how much his father loved them both. Even though he spoke rudely and disrespectfully to his father, his father addressed him with love. Pure love. Unconditional love. Reminding him of all the gifts and blessings he’s given him. That everything the father owns is his too.

What can we learn from his bad attitude?

Trust God.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:14-15

Train your mind.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8-9

Do it ALL for Jesus.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Colossians 3:23

Practice praise.

Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God. Hebrews 13:15

Cultivate a grateful heart.

Give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I pray our stories are like that of the prodigal. Because his story had a happy ending. He was restored to the Father. We are left to our own imaginations about the ending of the story for the older son. Did he go in and join the party? Or did he go back to work in the field and continue the deception of keeping up appearances?

*This post comes from things I've been learning in our Sunday School class while studying in the series The Gospel Project as well as Sunday morning sermons and conversations with those I share community.

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