I Am The Older Brother

Katie Franzen, Central Director of Strategic Initiatives | August 18, 2023

But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
Luke 15:29

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
Matthew 23:2–4

Throughout this series, we are focusing on the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. We often focus a lot of attention on the prodigal son, as is evident by even our name for the parable, but I wonder if we need to reframe the story. A friend of mine was traveling in Kenya, where they call the parable “The Loving Father.” I love this perspective shift because when we focus on the unconditional love of God, we can better see that this story isn’t just for the prodigal sons of the world but for people with all types of brokenness. 

Within humanity, there are different kinds of brokenness. There are the types of rebellious behavior that society labels as wrong, like the prodigal son’s wild living, but there are also more covert or hidden sins like pride and hypocrisy, the likes of which are usually the sins that people who are religious or have been Christians a long time fall into. I know for me, having come to know God at an early age, I’ve never related to the prodigal son, but I certainly can relate to the older brother.  

The older son prided himself on his excellent behavior and wanted recognition for it. Some of Jesus’ harshest words were for the religious elite, the ones with excellent behavior. And Jesus was talking to those people, myself included when he included the older brother in the parable. 

The problem with the older brother’s behavior was not that he worked hard or remained loyal to his father, it was that his good behavior clouded his vision of his father’s deep love for him. How often do we focus on the ways other people are “disobeying God” and forget to see the ways our own actions or attitude are distancing us from Him? 

Instead of focusing on the Prodigal Son, let’s keep our eyes on the deep, ravishing, unconditional love of our Father. 

Next Steps 

Do you ever resent the love God has for others? Your rebellious siblings? Or your challenging boss? Or for the political leader you despise? How might God be inviting you to reframe your resentment into gratitude for the same deep love God has for them that He has for you? 

We must hold, in equal measure, our inherent value as sons and daughters of God, as well as our inherent brokenness as sinners in need of a savior. Without going to shame, how can you name your own brokenness, whether that sin is like the prodigal son or the older brother?