The Prodigal Son- From His Brother’s Perspective
Time often changes the way that we see things. Lessons we learn in life cause us to view things differently as we get older. Last night, I was reading a parable from the bible to the kids before bed. It was about the prodigal son. It was interesting to me how my viewpoint has changed over the years from what I thought about this story. It’s more than a story of a father’s love and mercy towards his child. It’s also about understanding that while your anger might be valid, and there are probably bits of information you’re missing.
The Prodigal Son
There was a father with two sons. The younger son begged his father to give him his inheritance. The father decided to do so and gave each son their half of the estate. The younger son decided to move away where he squandered everything in wild living. After spending everything he went and found a job. He was to feed pigs for a farmer. Out of desperation, he found himself longing to eat what the pigs had. He came to his senses and thought about his fathers hired servants. They have food to spare and he is sitting there starving to death. He decided to go back to his father and admit that he had sinned against heaven and his father. Feeling unworthy, he would ask to be a hired servant.
A Parent’s Love
While he was still a long way off, the father saw him coming. His father, filled with compassion- ran to him and threw his arms around him. The father felt overjoyed that he had returned. The son said to him “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The father asked that the best robe to put on him. He also asked for sandals for his feet and to find the fattest calf to kill for a feast to celebrate his sons return. “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
The Prodigal’s Older Brother
The older son was out in the field working and as he got closer to the house he heard music and saw dancing. He asked one of the servants what was going on and was told his brother had returned. His father had called for a feast to celebrate him being back safe and sound.
The older brother was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him, but the older son explained his anger “All of these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me a young goat to celebrate with my friends but this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home you kill the fatten goat for him!” I can see him waving his arms around as he is explaining this letting out every ounce of frustration.
The father gently explained; “My son, 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.”
Love and Mercy
This parable shows the undying love and mercy of a parent. It shows a child, who realizes that they’ve done wrong but they know it would be better to return home to be a servant that to continue like this. I think he honestly felt unworthy to be his father’s son but knew that even as a servant in his father’s home he would be better off. I don’t think he expected his father to take him back in as a son at all.
I can see the scene in my mind of the father looking up and realizing his son has returned. Running to him, throwing his arms around him and crying. I can picture the son apologizing and the father cutting him off, wiping the tears from his eyes and claiming with such joy ‘my son has come home again!’ looking into his eyes asking ‘do you know how much I still love you?’
I can remember as a kid in Sunday school thinking that older brother was a real jerk. I mean, seriously he should learn to be grateful. If there had been hash tags, it would’ve said #DontBeLikeTheOlderBrother.
Relating To Both Sides
We have all been the prodigal son at some point in our lives, on different levels and we can relate. Here’s the funny part, as an adult- I can completely sympathize with the older brother. I think that we’ve all been in similar situations at some point. I don’t think the older brother was perfect. He probably complained sometimes about having to work and his father may have given him some slack and a few days off.
In this moment though, all he could see was he had been following the rules, sacrificing, and no one ever noticed him. No one ever threw a party to say thanks for being responsible and dependable. The older brother wasn’t a bad guy or a jerk. He was justified in how he felt in that moment. If you look at it from his point of view, he felt unappreciated and hurt. Even though he tried to do all the right things all these years it didn’t seem to matter.
It wasn’t that he wished harm to his brother, it was that in this moment, he didn’t understand why the father had to go for an all-out celebration as opposed to a quiet happiness. Yes, it sort of sounds like a very three-year-old type tantrum but if we’re honest we’ve all been there.
His father had a good point though; the eldest son could peacefully rest at night all these years knowing he was provided for. He could look at himself at the end of the day and know he had been honest and hard working. Ultimately, he wouldn’t trade that for anything.
While his brother was forgiven, it would probably still continue to weigh on his mind years from this point that he had squandered his inheritance. He will have to work even harder in order to build someone up of his own. It’s not that the younger brother’s life was easier or that he ‘got by’ with something. I’m sure things didn’t magically turn great for him.
Sometimes, when we’re on the end of the older brother, we have to step back and realize that we wouldn’t have changed the good we’ve done or the sacrifices we’ve made for those we love. It’s natural to get frustrated and angered at thinking your hard work was pointless. Your hard work isn’t pointless though.
If the older brother hadn’t stuck around, who knows that his father would have lived to see this day. There are times when embracing mercy has to be a conscious effort on our part. Unfair as it may seem, there are moments where we have to choose to let go of our anger and what has been done to move forward. In the bigger picture, it creates the thread of hope that weaves through our past and helps us move forward when we think we can’t. As humans, no one is perfect. It’s about learning from your mistakes and growing with that knowledge.
Really, We’re All The Same
The prodigal son’s brother was just as human as the prodigal son himself. He wasn’t being a bad guy because he got upset. As an adult, I see this story isn’t just about a father’s love and mercy. It’s about stepping back to see the other person’s side and not being so quick to go with our anger. We don’t know always know the whole story or walked in the other person’s shoes and sometimes we have to pause and think about that regardless of how justified we are in our feelings.
Let it Go
Long before the Frozen phenomenon and Idina Menzel belting out those famous words, a band named the Newsboys penned a song by the same title. I think it fits the prodigal son’s brother. I know it has fit me in instances when I feel like someone has done wrong and I don’t see why I should be the one to look past it.
You are waiting on a beach
For a healing word to come
Maybe an apology in a bottle
Maybe a flare that says, “I’m sorry.”
And the hurting leaves you numbWill you forgive?
Will you forget?
Will you live what you know?
He left his rights
Will you leave yours?
You don’t understand it
Let it go