Message: Luke 15 is well known to most everyone. We have heard lots about the prodigal son and even a significant amount about the older brother, so what I have to say is not necessarily a new idea. I just related well to the older brother in the sense that he was faithful and reliable. He had worked obediently all of this time while his brother was off being disrespectful and irresponsible. I can’t help but wonder if his anger had less to do with his brother and more to do with his father and his feeling of being overlooked. Because of the turmoil the father experienced over losing his relationship with his younger son, he had a very big reaction and outpouring of love towards him when he came home. The older brother probably watched the father grieve and now he was witnessing the generous amounts of love and approval his father was openly pouring out over him after he returned. He was celebrating the disobedient and dishonoring son while the obedient son was out in the fields working as he always had without a word of appreciation. His obedience was expected and he was probably yelled out more than once for forgetting to close a sheep pen or losing one to a wild animal attack. He was probably deeply jealous of the affections of his father and he probably craved those same words of approval. This was likely more than just his desire for a party with his friends. He wanted the heart of his father toward him expressed like this. The father reminded him at the end “you are always with me and everything I have is yours, but we had to celebrate because this brother of yours was dead and alive again, he was lost and is found. ” To the father, this was not about his approval, or for a job well done. It was about his gratitude over his son that he thought was lost forever. The older son had greater rewards coming to him than what his younger brother had squandered, and he probably didn’t realize that he had a different level of affection because his father was able to trust him .
Command: Don’t confuse the celebration of life, with the reward of obedience. It may feel like a long road of obedience while other people seemingly get away with unfaithfulness and disobedience. We may feel overlooked during the celebration now, but God is just and he has rewards for the faithful beyond imagination if we don’t get bitter during the long haul.
Promise: If we think the celebration of life is good, we haven’t even begun to see the rewards God has in store for the faithful and obedient. God has not overlooked the faithful, and his rewards will be more than we could have imagined.
Warning: Don’t become bitter and resent the celebration. The bitterness can taint the heart and turn a heart of obedience into a heart into something much worse than just a prodigal. It can turn us into a self righteous and entitled person.
Application: This reminds me of the importance of keeping bitterness in check. Sometimes that bitterness is stealthy and it hides in denial, but it can destroy the pure motives of the heart from working honestly and faithfully by believing the lie that it has to reward itself because nobody else will. The rewards of obedience are far greater than the temporary satisfaction of bitterness.