The Elder Brother
“And he said unto him, Son, thou are ever with me, and all I have is thine.” —Luke 15:31
When the prodigal son came home, his older brother was in the field working. This was because when his younger brother went away, it left more work for the older brother to do. So instead of him getting his part of the father’s inheritance, he still had to work until it was the regular time for him to get his inheritance. That meant he couldn’t take it easy, do whatever he wanted, and go where ever he wanted. He was still under the control and direction of his father, which he resented.
As the older brother came near the house after working hard all day long, he heard a celebration. The fact that he did not know what was going on indicated that he wasn’t close to his father, he didn’t have much communication with him, and he wasn’t nearly as concerned about his brother as his father was.
When he heard his father was having a big celebration for the return of his brother, he was furious. Not only did his brother not deserve a party, he should have been punished for wasting his father’s money by living in worldliness and immorality. He thought his father was wrong and did not want to have any part in it because he had not forgiven his brother as his father had.
When his father came to him and begged him to participate, he refused. He thought his father was being unfair and mistreating him. For years he had served his father and never rebelled against or disobeyed him, and his father had never provided a celebration for him and his friends.
He worked, but grudgingly and of necessity (II Cor. 9:7) instead of out of love for his father. As soon as his younger brother came home from living a wild lifestyle, his father immediately threw a party. The elder brother accused his father of doing more for the rebellious prodigal than he ever did for him. He thought if anyone deserved being rewarded it should be him because his good works proved he was better than his brother.
The father told his older son that he was always with him, but the son really wanted what his father had and not just a relationship with him. He really wanted the same things his younger brother wanted, he just went about it a different way to get them. He was trying to do enough good things to earn them and prove that he deserved them.
Then the father told his oldest son that all he had was his. That meant he could have anything he wanted because he was his son. The implication was that all he had to do was to ask for it. In essence, he was saying you have not because you ask not (James 4:2). But this was an insult because the older son felt like he should not have to ask since he had done so much for his father without receiving anything. The requirement of having to ask meant that it did not belong to him, but to his father. Therefore, he could not make it happen on his own and was still dependent on his father. This revealed his pride, arrogance, and the desire to get along without his father.
Since the father represented God, the elder brother represented the Pharisees and scribes Jesus addressed for their superior, self-righteous, and religious pride (Lk 15).
How many believers need to repent of the good they do—depending on that to be right with God and trying to make themselves holy instead of keeping their faith in who Christ is and what He did on the Cross so they then can receive His righteousness and holiness?