“But he (the older son) was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him.”
- Jesus, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:28)
Jesus describes how the older son has just found out that people are celebrating because his reprobate brother has returned home. In Jesus’ culture, any older son would be expected to high-tail it into the house and join the feast as quickly as possible. Instead, the older son stays outside, choosing to murmur about the apparent unfairness of his father’s actions. He deems the party unworthy of his attendance.
We’ve seen the way the father ran to his ragged son at the edge of the community, but what will he do for his puffed up and arrogant older son? Jesus tells us the father goes out to convince his son to come in. By leaving behind his guests, the father is again placing himself in the center of a potentially embarrassing act. Once the father is absent, the party stops. Everyone stands watching him court his older son, who is now displaying their broken relationship for all to see. The boy knows he’s humiliating his dad, but he doesn’t care. He’s become just as rebellious as the prodigal had been at the beginning of the story.
The loving father has two sons who have blocked his love in different ways. The younger has walled himself off from the Father’s love by doing evil, while the older has walled himself off from that same love by doing good. The older brother goes through the motions so he can gain rights in the household, not true membership in the family. His attitude has strayed far from the heart of the father he claims to serve! His younger brother, the outward rebel is inside feasting while he, the diligent one, stays outside pouting!
Which way have you walled yourself off from your heavenly Father? Could it be that the good you do has actually become a hindrance in your walk with God? Do you see your Christian life as the drudgery of a slave or the feast for a son?