Book Sale

Tuesday 30 August 2022

Don't Be The Older Brother

Image: Unsplash 

We read this in the parable of the prodigal son, 

"25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found’” (Luke 15:25-32). 

The problem with the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, is he thought he had earned everything he had. But he had not, it was all his dad's, "and all that is mine is yours" and he benefited from his dad. Without his father he would not have any of what he had. His belief that he had earned it all blinded him to the fact that but by the grace of God he would have nothing. 

This was the Pharisees biggest problem. They thought they had earned everything from God by right and by effort, rather than receiving from God in faith and by grace. We know Jesus was speaking about them, because verse 1-2 of Luke 15 says, "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Jesus was challenging their self-righteous perspective, they could not understand the grace Jesus was showing to sinners.

They did not earn what they had, it was a gift from God, all of it. This is important: You also did not earn what you have. All that you have is a gift from God. Once you understand this, you can't help but celebrate when another is forgiven what they owe, because you know without God's grace you'd be poorer than that man. That is the truth of it. 

This was the lesson the bigger brother struggled with. This is most people's problem, you think you deserve all you have earned, but you don't. It is all from God, even your ability to work for it. Once Paul the Apostle realized this, his own life and perspective changed. He tells us, 

"9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (1 Cor. 15:9-11). 

Paul achieved more than all of us, but he knew it was not him. It was God. It was all of the grace of God. A man who gets this does not get bitter at others receiving good things, because he knows he has received everything he has as a gift himself, including all that he "earnt".

"1 The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers" (Psalm 24:1-2)

"17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17). 

Everything is God's, we are only receivers, who should do so with humility and joy and thankfulness. 

This is one of the most foundational teachings in the whole Bible, and one of the hardest things for people to admit and accept. Especially well-to-do, self-reliant, hard-working, and noble people. People who believe they should put in, so that they receive, and who have evidence that they have done so. The kinds of people many conservatives tend to be. But recognizing that even that temperament you have is a gift from God, helps put this in perspective. It is humbling to admit this, but it is also important to protect yourself from self-righteousness, which is a deadly sin, cloaked in decency and fairness. 

Beware bitterness at seeing others given gracious gifts, they do not deserve. We should all be thankful we do not get what we deserve, but mercy and grace instead. 

No comments:

Post a Comment