The Other Son

Luke 15:28-30 (ESV)
But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’"

We often focus our attention when reading this well-known parable on the interaction between the father and the younger son and overlook or diminish the brief exchange at the end between the eldest son and the father. It’s easy to see the grace of the father when he takes the initiative to run to his younger son and in this, we see the mercy and grace of our Father who is ready to forgive us if we only turn to him. But what can we learn from the actions and words of the older son?

First, consider the audience Jesus was talking to. At the beginning of Chapter 15, the Pharisees looked down on Jesus because He would talk and eat with the tax collectors and sinners. He responded with a series of parables, one of which was the prodigal son.

In verse 28, it says the father went out to try to get his eldest son to join the feast, but he stubbornly refused, and notice did not even call him his brother in verse 29. The self-righteousness of this son would not allow himself to be humbled enough to join the family in celebration—a direct correlation to the Pharisees. They, meaning Israel, have had the Father always, yet their hearts remained far from Him. God has pursued this nation since their beginning and yet they still remain too stubborn to accept the Father’s gift—just as the eldest son in this parable does as well. He was focused purely on his acts and good deeds yet it is apparent his heart was far from his father. He saw no need to change his ways.

Can we find meaning for us today in the eldest son’s behavior? It’s easy to see how we can compare ourselves to the younger son, but what about the older son?

Dr. David Jeremiah once recounted that his father—a pastor as well—told him it is easier to save someone who knows they are lost than one who doesn’t. I believe in this we can see that there are certainly those numbered among us professing Christians who rest on our acts and our good deeds and feel completely at peace that salvation has been earned. 

But I cannot find anywhere in Scripture that we perfect our sanctification on this side of the cross. Let us approach every day that we draw breath as a day to glorify God and seek the lost - and do so with complete humility.

“Dear friends, you know as well as I do that there are many sorts of Christians. I am sorry to say that there are some nominal Christians who are no credit to Christianity; they bear the name of Christians, and though I will not say that they are dead, yet certainly they are very sickly, and seem ready to die. They stand among the people of God, and their names are put down in the church-book; but if they be spiritually alive, theirs is a very feeble form of life. Their heart is not in God’s ways; they are active and energetic when they get into the shop, but they are half asleep when they are in the sanctuary. They leave “footprints on the sands of time” when they are devoting their attention to politics; but when they come to the things of God, they tread so lightly that we cannot tell that they have passed that way. It seems to me to be a horrible thing that many a man should give fifteen ounces out of the sixteen to the world, and yet that he should label himself a Christian, because of that one odd ounce which he pretends to give to God."   ~ C.H. Spurgeon