“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But 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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
– Luke 15.28-32
There’s so much to say about the older brother that I will probably return to this section a couple of times.
It can be easy to condemn the older brother as selfish, and we’ll look at the implications for the audience another time, but there’s something which I feel is often overlooked.
The older brother is a good son.
“All these years I have… never disobeyed your orders”.
This is some claim. Obviously it’s generalised and sweeping but the father’s response seems to be one of implicit agreement.
“My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
There’s no, “Well, what about when you did X…?” The response is simply saying that all he has is his son’s.
It’s interesting, this portion of the story is clearly placing the older brother’s response to his little brother’s return in a negative light – but objectively he’s a good guy and a good son.
He’s a good son, a good person, and yet he’s not been celebrated in the same way as his (allegedly) promiscuous, rebellious, wasteful kid brother is now he’s turned up again.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in here for us.
Sometimes, we do good things and indeed are good people, but no one seems to notice.
It would be a guess on my part, but I would imagine that the father had noticed – even if the son feels like he hasn’t been.
So, a couple of points to end:
- We might be unaware of who values who we are and the things we do. But they do notice and do appreciate it nonetheless.
- The younger brother was a bad son. He was not worthy . The older brother was a good son. A good person, and this goodness is based in part on his obedience to his father.
- When we look at the Pharisees, we have to remember that they were most likely good people too. We’ll think about that more soon.
The older brother, for all his flaws in the narrative, is very much an unsung hero.