Luke 15:25-28 (KJV) 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. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
(It has been a while since I posted. It has been a busy summer. We leave August 15th for Kenya and Uganda. They have just finished their presidential election and we are believing that there will be no violence. Please keep this situation in prayer. Let us catch up a bit.)
We have been looking at the kind of Father our God is to us. We have found in this study that God is a perfect Father. He loves us unconditionally. He will give us good things. He will never leave us nor will he abandon us. His motivation for all he does in our lives is our good. We have also learned from Hebrews 12 that he is a Father who will discipline us when needed.
His discipline will always be according to what he knows will bring us into his highest for our lives. Any good parent must be willing to discipline their children as part of training. God is a perfect parent and gives us perfect discipline.
We found that this discipline follows a pattern. I do not believe God disciplines through sickness or calamity. I do believe that these things can come when we ignore God’s discipline and we allow sin to pay its biblical wage (Romans 6:23.) God will use what happens when we ignore discipline to continue to train us but the bad thing is not the discipline.
I would rather allow God to do in my life what he needs to do in order to make me the person he wants me to be. I do not want to ignore God’s dealings and receive the wages of my own foolishness instead. We see an example of what happens when we do in Jesus teaching on the prodigal son in Luke 15.
As we get older in the Lord, the things we need discipline for become much more subtle. They also become more justifiable in our own minds. In the story of the prodigal son, we need to take a look at the older brother. If you are like me, you are probably more like him than his foolish younger brother.
When the prodigal came to his senses and returned to his father’s home, his father received him back into his good graces. There are some consequences the father can do nothing about. The son has lost his inheritance. He is not getting another. He restores him by giving him a robe of righteousness or right standing with the family. He gives him shoes because only slaves were barefoot and he gives him a signet ring which will allow him to do business in the father’s name.
We do not know how this all plays out for the younger son since he has no inheritance. I think the father has restored relationship. This gives the younger son a way to earn a living again even though he will never have what he threw away in his original inheritance.
The older brother is furious at his father’s actions. This foolish young man did not deserve a celebration when he got home. As we read on we find that the brother is offended because the father did not throw a party for him. It is interesting that when we allow pride and offense to cloud our vision we begin to think illogically. The father points out something that the son seems to have forgotten.
Luke 15:31 (KJV) 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
The son owned everything on the farm. He was with the father and had all the benefits of being with the father. He could have had any kind of party he wanted at any time he wanted. He could not seem to see that. All he could see is that his brother did not deserve what he got from father.
There are many things we could learn from the elder brother. Let me say that he needed discipline as much as the younger one. His sin was different and his father chastened him with his words. If he did not choose to receive his father’s discipline he would have descended into bitterness. There would be a wage to pay for that sin. It might not be the same wage as his younger brother had to pay, but it would still be death of some kind.
I am not saying he would “go to hell” as it were. I think the wages we pay involve the things that happen to us here on earth. Paul said some men’s sins go before them and some follow after them (1 Tim. 5:24). The prodigal’s sin was open to all. The elder brother’s sin was not but it was still sin. What can we learn from the older brother? I believe we can learn what to look for in our lives when we experience the chastening of the Lord. What was the Older brother’s sin?
First, the older brother did not understand the depth of the love of God. God’s love does not make sense to us most of the time. The elder brother was right. His brother did not deserve what the father did for him. One of my main themes for me this year is the mercy of God. The father gave the son mercy and grace. He withheld what the son deserved and gave him what he did not deserve. The father did not give this until the prodigal repented be when he repented, mercy and grace were waiting. The older son could expect the same but he did not think he needed it. This is important. Sometimes we are deluded into thinking we are above sin.
The older brother judged his brother’s actions by his own. We cannot do that. God looks at each of us and deals with us according to what we need. God dealt with the younger brother by allowing him to end up in a pigpen. He did not rescue him from the pigpen. He dealt with the older brother by pointing out the error of his thinking. Each is what was needed. He honored the younger brother’s repentance but he also honored the older brother’s faithfulness. The reward for faithfulness can sometimes seem mundane compared to the reward for repentance from extreme sin. That is how we see it. It is not how God our Father sees it.
The older son’s reward was that he received his inheritance. Part of that inheritance was the authority over the father’s estate. What the younger son squandered did not change his position at all. What the father did for the younger son was none of his business. The older son had everything that was his. He had no reason to be angry.
What should he have done? He should have rejoiced with his father over the return of his brother. His brother had learned a great lesson. It would take time for him to earn back everyone’s trust. What the father gave him was the opportunity to do that.
If you are a faithful Christian, there are many ways sin can enter and reasons you may need discipline. After over 50 years as a Christian I know I still need it. Be careful of offense. Understand that when the Father shows mercy to someone it is his business. When he shows mercy to your brother, let that be an encouragement that it is there for you as well. Do not judge lest you be judged. Those are Jesus’ words. God knows things you do not. You cannot apply to someone else what applies to you.
When God does deal with you over these things or any other thing, do what it seems the elder brother did. There is no indication that he repented but there is no indication he did not. He was a good man. He was loyal to his father and a good manager of their estates. I think he joined the party and received the blessing of his brother’s return. It cost him nothing to do so. It costs you nothing to reject offense and receive the blessing that comes with repentance.