Traditionally, the second son in the expansive third parable in Luke 15 gets overlooked in favor for his younger brother. In fact, this parable is often referred to as “the parable of the prodigal son.” Such a title leaves the second brother out of the picture completely. Yet, today we will give the second son attention and in doing so we will see how much depth he adds to the chapter. I would even make the argument that Jesus has built the entire chapter just for the drama of the elder brother.
[Please feel free to read Luke 15:11-32]
Notice how the parable begins: “There was a man who had two sons.” I put the argument before you that the man had two lost sons. The first son hit rock bottom and returned home. He was dead and is now alive again. He was lost but has now been found. The son often referred to as the prodigal ends the chapter in the home of his father having a celebration like no other. What about the second son? He ends the chapter standing outside choosing a pity party over joining the celebration. Perhaps the elder brother stayed at home but was just as lost as the first son had once been.
Does he even make it inside? The parable leaves it open ended.
Let’s spend some time looking at the elder brother. It might be helpful to even allow yourself to look past the elder brother and begin to look inward. Many of us “church people” carry a few elder brother symptoms.
Four attitude problems revealed in the second son’s words and behavior:
The second son believes he has no need for repentance and therefore does not repent (see 15:7).
This is a dangerous place to be my friends. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Too often we’ve believed the lie that spiritual maturity is pretending everything is OK. In reality, spiritual maturity is confessing sin and embracing a Savior.
The second son compares his faithful service to the sins of his brother. As if to say, “I deserve my father’s love but my brother doesn’t deserve a thing.”
We are not to compare ourselves to those around us. We are to compare ourselves to Jesus Christ. When we compare ourselves to others we don’t look too bad. When we compare ourselves to Jesus we look like sinners. When we compare ourselves to others we stick our chest out and look down our noses. When we compare ourselves to Jesus it leads us to worship.
The second son serves his father looking for a special reward. He serves in order to receive.
We should serve our Heavenly Father out of gratitude and devotion. NOT merely looking to gain the perks that come with service. If we serve merely to receive we never make it through the difficult days, the bad news, the moments of stretching and growing faith.
The second son is unwilling to enjoy a life-giving relationship with the father.
He lived his entire life in his father’s household but never experienced all his father has to offer. Don’t let that be you. The father’s response: “My son you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
The chapter ends with the younger son experiencing a Heavenly Celebration and the elder son outside the Heavenly Celebration experiencing his own pity party.
Do you prefer the Heavenly Celebration or the pity party?
You are a sinner in need of savior. You have a savior in Jesus Christ – the one who died on the cross for the sins of the world. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Confess your sin. Repent of your sin. And celebrate with the Heavenly Father.