Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. (26) And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. (27) And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. (28) And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. (29) And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: (30) But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.Luke 15:25-30
It would be nice if the story ended there. Yet in the next few verses we see the story continue with yet a different kind of prodigal. We see the elder son, who is a picture of resentment.
(25) Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. (26) And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
(27) And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
Here comes the elder son. The elder son had never left home, and had witnessed the whole circumstance. The elder son had watched his younger brother disgrace his dad. The elder son had watched the praying, the sleepless nights, and the pacing on the front porch looking down the road.
Notice where he comes from. He comes from the field. Why would he be in the field? He was working. He was responsible. He had outward conformed to the social norms and honored his parents.
Yet he did not have the fathers heart. Look at his response.
(28) And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
The elder son was not happy that his brother was alive. He was not happy that he was repentant. He was not happy that he was back. He was definitely in no mood to party. He refused to even go in and see his brother.
Notice that the father had run to the prodigal when he came back. Now the father is going to his elder son, a prodigal of another kind.
There is another speech by another son.
(29) And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
The elder son claims that his service was to his father. He claims that over the years he had never disobeyed his dad. He claims that there was no sin on his part. Notice the contrast in attitude. The younger prodigal was penitent. The older prodigal was self-righteous. The younger prodigal recognized his sin. The older prodigal denied he had ever sinned. The younger prodigal saw his sin the way that the father saw it. The older prodigal didn’t want to spend time with his dad. He wanted to “make merry with” his friends.
The speech continues.
(30) But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
Notice what he called his brother. He called him “thy son”. He did not accept His brothers forgiveness. He says that his brother “devoured” his father’s living. He consumed it. The father, whose living was wasted, was exemplifying extravagant forgiveness. The older brother was accusing his father of celebrating sinfulness. He was accusing his father of unfair treatment. The fatted calf was typically a grain fed animal, fattened up for celebration, and usually slaughtered and prepared for a religious holiday. The extravagant forgiveness was seen as unjust and unfair by the elder brother. The accusation being made bordered on a questioning of the character of the father.
In this exchange between the elder brother and his father, we see a son that is resentful. His resentment reveals several attitudes that are problematic.
First, we see an attitude of unforgiveness. The father, who was the primary one sinned against, forgave more readily and earnestly than did the son, who though he was sinned against, was not sinned against like his dad.
In my ministry I have seen this played out many times. Sometimes it is easier to forgive those who sin against us directly than it is to forgive those who sin against a loved one. Yet we must learn to forgive. Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? Do it. Right now, from the heart, make the decision to forgive. Don’t grow bitter.
Second, we see an attitude of self-righteousness. He does not have the same heart as his father for his brother. He does not believe that he has done any wrong. His resentment is causing him to have no love for his brother and less love for his father. He states passionately that he has never transgressed at any time. This is unlikely, yet it reveals that he thinks he is better than the treatment he is getting.
Over and over again, we see the pattern of the message of Jesus. Those that acknowledge their sinfulness and confess it are forgiven. Those who refuse to own their own sinfulness are not. Blessed are the poor in spirit! Blessed are those who acknowledge their own sinfulness and repent.
Third, we see an attitude of entitlement. When you read the words of the brother what posture and body language do you picture? Were there pointed fingers? Is his voice elevated or quiet and controlled? There is an air of accusation in his tone. “You didn’t even give me a goat!”. It’s almost as if he is saying, “Dad you owe me?”. The scripture says that the borrower is slave to the lender. In a sense the elder son primarily has a problem with his father more than with his brother.
An attitude of entitlement comes from a person who is not thinking rightly about themselves. God owes us nothing but an eternity separated from Him because of our sin. Yet God in His mercy gave to us His Son. He has committed Himself to us by promising us salvation, forgiveness of sins, adoption, an inheritance, the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and eternal life for those who repent and trust in Him. Have you done that?
- Look at those attitudes: Unforgiveness, Self-Righteousness, and Entitlement. Which one have you exhibited lately? What should you do about it?