Luke 15:25-32 (ESV)

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 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.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 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. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”

Jesus wrapped up the Parable of the Prodigal Son by looking at the older son’s response to his brother’s repentance. Jesus used this parable to specifically address the attitudes of the religious leaders (See Luke 15:2). The older son comes home from working in the field and hears singing and music from the grand celebration in his home. A servant informs him that his lost brother has repented, and a party was happening as a result. Upon learning this, he becomes angry and refuses to rejoice with his family. The older brother should have rushed with excitement into the party, but now he was the one on the outside of the festivity. As the story continues, the father himself comes out to reason with the older son. The father literally asks the older son again and again to please join with them. The older son explains that he had faithfully slaved on his father’s behalf for years and years, yet no one celebrated his work. The older brother is basically saying, “I am not going in there, because this is just not fair!” The older brother is so self-consumed that he can’t bring himself to rejoice with brother who practically came back to them from the dead. The older son despises the grace of his father toward one he considers unworthy. Which son was disobedient now?

In verse 30, the older brother’s anger peaks. He calls his brother “this son of yours.” He reminds his father what a terrible person the younger son was, and adds details to what his brother did by informing his father that his wealth was spent on prostitutes. But the father isn’t shaken. He tells his older son that he always had access to all the family owned. Then the father gently reminds the older brother, “He’s not only my son, but he is your brother.” The parable’s conclusion reminds us that God came to save sinners. To bring the gospel to sinners, we must associate with them. This doesn’t mean we take part in evil activity, but we must work to build relationships with those who may be considered moral rejects in hopes that some might come to repentance and faith. If you have any of the older brother’s attitude, ask God to forgive you of self-righteousness today. Then pray that he would use you as he continues his great work of bringing the spiritually dead back to life.