The “Good” Big Brother
I was blessed to be invited to speak at a bible camp in Kentucky a couple of weeks ago. I got the call when I was visiting my grandparents in Florida, but lets back up just a bit first. A little more than a month ago I was doing bible study and praying and I got this sense that whenever I had the chance to preach again that I would speak on the story known as the “Prodigal Son.” So there I am three weeks ago at my grandparents retirement community when my phone rang. It was a youth minister from a church in Kentucky. He invited me to come speak at their annual bible camp. He tells me about the group, the camp, and then says that he needs me to speak on the “Prodigal Son.” I love it when God does that sort of thing.
Ok, well I just had to share that part now I can write about whats on my mind.
Often as we read this parable from Luke 15 we miss out on the latter third of the story. We put all of our focus on the sinful, debaucherous son who shamefully returns home after flushing his inheritance. I certainly believe that is an important and beautiful part of the story, but there is more.
Perhaps we, preachers, teachers, etc., dont give any attention to the latter part of this tale because it challenges us and calls us to a place where we must evaluate our own lives and stop being so damn judgemental of everyone elses’ lives.
Lets take a look at what the last several verses in Luke 15 say.
25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
So here you have this older brother working in the fields, analogous of doing his “Father’s Work,” in terms of carrying out his religious duties. He was too busy checking off his religious check list to realize his little brother had returned home. I know that this has certainly been the case in my own life at times. I am to caught up in my own religiosity, my own studies, my own sermons, my own writing, and my own “righteousness” that Ididnt have time to or the concern to care about whats going on in the lives of others. My own filthy rags are often more important than the souls of others in need.
28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But 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. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
Here again the big brother is showing his own incredible selfishness. How many “faithful” Christians have a similar attitude. Think about it, how many moral majority type groups, heck even people like me, spend more time being angry about the sins of others than celebrating when the prodigals come home? We bitch and moan about the way the abortionists or gay rights activist or “liberals” or on and on, are ruining society and we act like their sins are unforgivable. We just cant believe that a terrorist could really deserve the joys of God’s great love. But seethats just it, none of us, not one, deserve the feast of God’s incredible love and amazing grace.
31” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”
This section is interesting to me. It is as if the Father is implying that the older brother has never bothered to take advantage of the great wealth and privilege all around him. How many Christians do you know that seem to be totally void of joy and peace? How many still cant trust in God’s grace to save them? How manydont realize that they are truly loved by Love Himself? We need to feast on the riches of our Father every chance we get, and be sure to invite others.
Then the Father states what should be the obvious, “We had to celebrate.” Have any of you ever seen a baptism, or heard someone publicly confess faith in Christ and the congregation barely musters up golf clap. We have to celebrate, shout and cheer, dance, feast, party, and welcome our brothers and sisters home. No more nonchalant, half hearted, hurry up and get this over so I can get to the restaurant for lunch, pathetic excuses for homecoming celebrations. Stand up and shout, and hey if anyone looks at you funny tell ’em, “I had to celebrate, my brother/sister has come home.”
Jesus didnt come so that you and I would have to be face first in a pig trough. Jesus didnt die so that we would stay a “long way off” when we finally decide to come home. And Jesus didnt rise from the dead so that we would devote ourselves to church, or our understanding of the bible, or religion. He died and rose again so that we could have freedom, true freedom, that doesnt come from any sort of religious activity but from the very blood of the Son of God. He provided us with a way to come home and feast on the blessings of our Father.