The Older Brother

In the parable of the Prodigal/Lost son, Jesus intends to teach a very important lesson to the Pharisees and scribes. Remember they were the ones grumbling about Jesus associating with sinners. He saves the best for last in this parable and lets em have it. They are supposed to relate to the older brother. First lets take a look at what Jesus says.

“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. “And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ “But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'” Luke 15:25-32

When the younger brother left, the older brother stayed at home. When the lost son came home, we find the older brother out in the fields. He was doing what he was supposed to do. Responsible, reliable, and a part of the family. Every father’s favorite son. Or was he? Something was dark lie under the surface.

We see the problem come to the surface when the lost son comes home and the Father welcomes him back into the family. The lost son has gotten restored back to the family. He has received grace. But this makes the older brother very angry. So angry we see him yelling at his father who comes out to try to reconcile with the older brother.

But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’

I find it interesting that the older brother is not really mad at his brother. Don’t you. He is mad at his father. His words blame his father.  He points out that the has served the father, never neglected a command of his father. He complains, “you never”, “this son of yours”,  and “you killed the calf”. This older brother is mad at his dad. He also seems to be very jealous of his brother.  Jealousy was killing him.

Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, friendship, or love. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness, and disgust. Jealousy differs from envy in that jealousy is about something one has and is afraid of losing, while envy refers to something one does not have and either wants to acquire or to prevent another from acquiring. Wikipedia

Jealous of losing the affection of his father? Envious of his younger brother’s feast and grace. Jealous because he was the good son and he did not want to lose that.

The older brother has a serious heart condition. I think Jealousy is only one of many problems the older brother has.  Here is a nice list I hope you do not relate too.

  • Jealous of the love his father showed his brother.
  • Bitter about the years of work unappreciated.
  • Angry about the injustice of forgiving his brother after all he had done.
  • Ungrateful for all the care and provision his father had been giving him.
  • Unsatisfied with his own choices. Probably thinking, “Oi! I should have gone too.”

The pharisees wanted Jesus’ attention. They were so confused. They probably thought if this really is God’s son he would accept us, not pushing us away. They were the good guys. They had been serving and sacrificing everything to obey God. They were fasting, they were studying the scriptures, they were not sinning. They were the ones eagerly awaiting the Messiah. They just could not understand why Jesus was always picking on them. Jesus told them he had come to save the lost. Jesus came to teach us all that God wants to save people not condemn them. This thought echoes in the words the father speaks to his son at the end of the parable.

‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’

The pharisees had the law. They had the Kingdom and God’s promises. They were careful to do everything right. They were sure they were perfect and they pushed anyone who was a “sinner” away. What they missed completely was LIFE. They had no relationship with God. They did not know him or what he really wants. They were so careful to do what they thought was right they did not have time to listen to what he really wanted. They did not take any time to live in God. To enjoy his grace. To ask for a gift to share. They never realized that they were in the family and had all the benefits of being in the family and that everything God had was theirs.

Instead what we see are a lifeless bunch of religious leaders. To sum up,

  • They were cold and heartless
  • Had a major heart condition
  • They thought observing the law made them righteousness
  • They did not understand Jesus’ purpose
  • Even though they had a relationship with God, but did not understand how much God loved them
  • They ere good people, but were so full of hate and jealousy
  • They had created laws that ultimately separated them from God
  • Came to church, made their sacrifices, tithed but had forgotten why
  • They had no idea they needed Jesus too
  • Could not recognize the sin in their own lives

The pharisees did not understand that they were with God all along. Everything He has was theirs. They did not understand that God’s desire was that all Jews would come to his son. They had the promises. They had the Kingdom. BUT. They did not realize it and they missed the whole point. Ultimately they would miss Jesus all together.

The message to us is the same. Do you realize as a Christian, God says the same to you.

‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’

God loves you so much he gave everything to keep you in the family. He is still seeking the lost and bringing them to him. No one deserves to be in the family. Let us all rejoice and be glad for all who are added to the family.

God bless.

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You Might be an Older Brother: Hard Heart

It has been a while since I wrote about the older brother. The book of Hebrews has many themes that relate to the problems the older brother had. First and foremost is about heart conditions. The older brother definitely had a serious heart condition. It was hard.

Symptoms of a hard heart include, apathy, hate, judgmental attitudes, stubbornness, and worst of all spiritual blindness. Individuals diagnosed with a hard heart include, Pharaoh, the Apostles (from time to time), Pharisees, and of course the Older Brother. One diagnosis came from Jesus while speaking to a group of people.

Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.

He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. Mark 3:4-6

The Pharisees in this account refused to answer Jesus’ question because they could not bring themselves to acknowledge Jesus’ authority. They refused to answer the question because they knew they would be exposed. Just too stubborn to change. To hard to be molded into the image of God.

The author of Hebrews warns his readers too.

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Hebrews 3:12-14

Warning: Check your heart condition, not evil and unbelieving, typical symptoms of hard hearts. Hearts deceived by sin and hardened against God. The result of a hard heart, turning away from God.

Encouragement: TODAY! Hold firmly to your faith, trust God. Be careful because sin (something we might claim to be able to control) will lead us away and deceive us.

Want to share in all that belongs to Christ? Sure you do. Start working on your heart. Sprinkle a little heart softener around. Faith in God, hold to what you believe, resist sin, trust God.

God bless. Stay soft.

You Might be an Older Brother: Sin

The number one problem older brothers have is SIN. Everyone knows it, except of course the older brother. You see older brothers do not sin. We do not have room for mistakes especially in others. PERIOD!

#1 problem for older brothers is sin.

Because they do not sin*, they are able to clearly, carefully, and callously pass judgement. It is so easy for the older brother to identify sin in people’s lives. They do it all the time. It is fun too, I’ve done it. Hey, be honest here, you have too. It makes us feel better about ourselves and we can ignore our sin for a little while.

Well guess what. older brothers SIN! Makes me mad. I am trying to be perfect here. Sin messes me up makes me depressed, guilty, and want to kick the cat. (By the way, where is that cat!) Older brothers know God hates sin more than anything. So he hates sinners. Simple really. So if we sin, God is mad at us and I had better watch out for the lightning bolts. Right.

#2 problem for older brothers is an inability to deal with sin and more importantly the guilt associated with it.

Older brothers have missed the point!

The lesson that the younger brother learned was, his daddy loves him and forgives him. WOW! Having intentionally sinned for a long time, Daddy forgave him. Lesson, God forgives us when we sin. In fact, we can live in such a way that sin is not counted against us. It is pre-forgiven. When Jesus died on the cross he freely offered himself as a sacrifice for my sin I will commit tomorrow.

Paul tries to explain some of this in his letter to the Romans.

One man’s sin brought guilt to all people. So also one right act made all people right with God. And all who are right with God will live. Many people were made sinners because one man did not obey. But one man did obey. That is why many people will be made right with God.

The law was given so that sin would increase. But where sin increased, God’s grace increased even more. Sin ruled because of death. So also grace rules in the lives of those who are right with God. The grace of God brings eternal life because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done. Romans 5:18-21

Hallelujah! My sins are covered. Yours?

*This is a lie remember 1 John 1:5-10

You Might be an Older Brother if…You Would do What?

I came across Josh Graves’ blog and had an Older Brother moment. In his blog entry “You would do What?”, he writes that an acquaintance asked him…

“Imagine this scenario. A man walks into your office completely at the end of his rope, he’s hit rock bottom. His annual salary, before losing his job, was $250k. In a span of 30 days, this man spent over $100k on alcohol, gambling, and food. That’s one hundred thousand dollars… His wife left him and took their children. He’s lost his house, cars…everything and now lives on the streets and in shelters sorting rags for $25 a week. This guy walks into your office and tells you this information, how would you respond?”

One friend at the table replied, “I’d tell him to call someone who cares.”

Ouch, that sounds just like an Older Brother. The friend may have been just kidding; however, there is just too much truth in this response to ignore. Especially for me, I relate too well with the attitude of “you got yourself into this mess, get your own self out!”

I am reminded of the attitude of the Pharisees who got angry with Jesus every time he healed or helped someone on the Sabbath day.

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing. Luke 13:10-17

Jesus came to show us how to treat people who are suffering, unfortunate, poor, orphaned and sick. He loved the sinner. He wants us to react differently that we would naturally. He wants me to be spiritual and love others.

Thanks Josh for making me think.

God bless

You Might be an Older Brother: Exclusivity

Well sorry about the big word. Not sure really what one word describes this attribute of “older brothers”. You might be an older brother if you think you have a lock on the truth and salvation. If you want to exclude some types of people from your fellowship, if you are shocked and horrified by the undeserving and ugly, then you might just be an older brother.

This is a common ailment of the teachers of the law and Pharisees. They exhibited it several times. Here is one instance early in Jesus’ ministry.

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:27-32

My favorite example of this type of attitude is from a Pharisee who got to eat with Jesus.

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:36-39

It pains me to admit that I have had this type of attitude. Not realizing that I need God’s saving grace given through Jesus more than most. Unless we are in need of the physician we can never be healed. I truly believe that if I refuse to see God’s grace extending to others, I cannot be saved.

Jesus goes on to teach the Pharisee, the one who has been forgiven much loves much. God is Love and without loving one another, we do not know what love is.

God Bless

You Might be an Older brother: Anger

Okay, lots of people deal with anger. Just go along for now.

You might be an older brother if

  • Anytime someone does something to you you react in Anger
  • Anytime something does not go your way you get Angry
  • Your solution to any conflict/problem is Anger/getting even.
  • You like staying angry.

Yesterday while doing some carpentry I got mad (Happens a lot since I do not know what I am doing). Just wanted to be grumpy. Then it dawned on me I did not have to be grumpy. I could instead just laugh. Laugh at myself, my mistakes, my sore finger, and God. I know his was laughing at me, if not shaking His head. “When will that boy get it.” He must have been thinking.

One thing about the older brother from Luke 15 was anger. In Verse 28 the NIV says, “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.” When he found out his brother was back he got Mad. Angry because he was back and mad because his father took him back. I’ll even bet he was still mad at his brother for asking for the inheritance before Dad died.

Older brothers react with anger.

The Pharisees did it all the time. Anytime they lost an argument, anytime Jesus showed them up, anytime Jesus condemned them, they got mad. So mad they left often to go plot how they would kill Jesus. A good example can be found in Luke 6:6-11

Ah, but you say, “Jesus got mad too.” Yes he did. And it looked good on him at the time. The difference is Jesus knew what he was doing. I don’t. Jesus was angry in response to His house being invaded by irreligious men. I get angry because I am hurt, I do not get my way, I am embarrassed, I am a sinner.

I know it could not have happened this way; however, what if a Pharisee’s heart was pricked by Jesus’ words, miracles, love and compassion? What if instead of reacting with anger, they were to ask, “Am I wrong? Is my heart in the right place? Am I being completely honest here about my motives?”

The good news at least one man did ask those questions.

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.  Luke 23:50-54

A good and upright man. One who does not react in anger but instead changes who he is because of who Jesus is.

So what will it be, want to stay an Older brother all your life?

You Might be an Older Brother: Self-righteousness

This is a sure giveaway. So confident of our own works, justified before men, on our way to the pearly gates. Then Jesus goes and tells us a parable. What’s up with that?

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

Jesus says enough here. I just need to listen. God, have mercy on me a sinner.

God bless. Don’t pray like my brother prays! No, don’t pray like my brother!