The elder brother

Introduction: Lk. 15:25-32, Acts 9:26 (In the story of the prodigal son we also read about an elder brother. I ve often wondered why Jesus included the part regarding his attitude in the story. Christ put this here for our benefit. We can easily see where we compare to the prodigal son. Evidently, we sometimes compare to the elder brother too. Saul s conversion shows an example of how we might be like the elder brother. After he was converted some did not believe he was genuine. We sometimes take on a similar attitude towards those who try to repent from bad mistakes. We frequently question the sincerity of a restored backslider. Sometimes we treat them cold as a punitive measure. Occasionally we will make them feel dirty or unwelcome, and even berate them with cruel gossip. This is the kind of thing we do that s like the elder brother. Let s study his story to see what we can do to be better.)

1. What The Elder Brother Did: (Let s examine his behavior more closer to see if we detect a similarity to ourselves.)

    1. He Was Suspicious About Rejoicing: Lk. 15:25-26, Lk. 15:7 (Angles in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents. Faithful Christians rejoice too. Do we view such rejoicing with a cynical eye? Will you be seen participating in the rejoicing or will you observe from a distance and criticize?)

    2. He Was Angry At His Brother s Repentance: Lk. 15:28, Jn. 11:46-53 (He was so angry at the turn of events that he refused to go in where the family was rejoicing. The Pharisees were angry at the popularity of Jesus and sought to kill him for that reason. Some people just don t want to see the lost repent. Would you be just as comfortable is certain ones remained in sin until judgment so they could get what they have coming?)

    3. He Refused To Associate With His Brother: Lk. 15:28, Isa. 65:5 (As noted above, the elder brother would not join in the celebration over the lost sheep returning. Sometimes we take on a "holier than thou" attitude. Do you withhold your association from some because of this?)

    4. He Boasted Of His Own Service: Lk. 15:29, Lk. 18:9-12 (The elder brother boasted of his own faithfulness through the years. This is much like the attitude of the Pharisee in the temple. Do you ever look at the returned prodigal and think yourself good for never having the extreme problems that person had?)

    5. He Complained There Was No Special Blessing: Lk. 15:29, Exo. 14:10-12 (The elder son complained that he received no special attention like the prodigal. In like manner, even though God had blessed Israel so much, they complained at their fate. Do you sometimes complain or feel jealousy at the attention given to repentant sinners?)

    6. He Drew Attention To His Brother s Past: Lk. 15:30, Lk. 18:11 (The elder son brought attention to his brother s past mistakes. The Pharisee did the same regarding the publican in his temple prayer. Do you use people s past mistakes to belittle their character? Do you hold someone s past against them, even when they ve repented?)

2. What Causes The "Elder Brother" Attitude Today: (Looking at spiritual woes that contribute to this attitude will help us understand how to live above it.)

    1. Pride: 3 Jn. :9-10 (Sometimes this attitude stems from a desire to feel superior to others. Diotrephes desire for preeminence exemplifies this kind of pride.)

    2. Jealousy: Mt. 20:10-15 (This story shows some who worked all day being jealous of those who worked less but received the same pay. Perhaps we suffer from this kind of wrong thinking when we have the elder brother attitude.)

    3. Misunderstanding: Lk. 19:10 (Christ s mission is to seek and save the lost. Sometimes we loose sight of this and treat the repentant sinner like the elder brother treated the prodigal.)

    4. Conviction: Mt. 7:4-5 (Jesus warns us to work on our own problems before we attack others. Perhaps we sometimes focus on the returned prodigal to draw attention away from our own sin we have failed to confront. The elder brother attitude sometimes stems from feeling convicted of our own guilt.)

    5. Lack Of Love: 1 Cor. 13:4, 1 Jn. 3:15 (A cold attitude toward the one who repents shows a lack of love. If we love people the way we should we will rejoice in their repentance. If we don t, that lack of love amounts to a kind of hate, something which can cost us our soul.)

3. The Real Sinner: (Look at the story of the repentant prodigal and see that the elder brother was the real sinner in the final outcome. If you have the elder brother attitude toward others, you too are more sinful in God s sight than you realize.) Rev. 3:17 (Like the saints at Laodicea, we sometimes see ourselves as spiritually pure and fail to see how pitiful we look in God s eyes.) Mt. 18:4-7 (Christ warns us sternly to not oppose those who believe in him and seek to follow him. We dare not hinder the prodigal child of God or sinner who seeks to reconcile with the Father in heaven.)