“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘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.’ ” – Luke 15:25-32
As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now for the rest of the story.” So many people look at this parable and focus upon the younger son and the Father, and they gloss over the older son. Pity – the older son offers a great deal for us, especially as Christians who live in the love of the Father day by day. For starters, the brother was hurt by the fact that the Father had given his undeserving sibling such a great gift but yet hadn’t rewarded him – not even a goat to go celebrate with his friends. My question to the brother is this: Did you ever ask?
God is providing you and I with immeasurable blessings. Satan recognizes this and has of late been relentless in his attacks. But try as he may, he will not succeed in separating us from what we have asked God for and from what God, out of love and according to His will, has promised us.
In the parable, there is nothing to suggest that had the older brother asked for the goat he would have been denied. Quite the opposite when you consider that the Father gave the younger son his full inheritance upon his requesting it. That thought is confirmed in this passage as the Father reminds his son that he is now the heir of all the Father has. Ask and you shall receive. I have asked a good many things of God and have worked hard to clean my hands, to replace my wineskins, and to fully surrender my life to Him. I believe that He has answered my prayer and will be true to the Word He has spoken to me. That is why I, like the older brother, stay and wait with a patient and steadfast resolve on the coming blessings of the Father.
Finally there is a great lesson in how the Father treats His two sons equally. Yes – equally. When the younger son returned, the Father did two things. He first restored the relationship, then He directed him back toward his divine destiny. Look and you will see that He does the exact same thing with His older son. First, he restores the relationship, reminding his son of his position within the family: the heir to all that the Father has. There is nothing that the Father has that will be denied to his son and so that reminder is the first thing given. But then the Father redirects his son back toward his destiny. The son is beckoned to come, join the celebration and to set aside the former things that have held him back from enjoying the fullness of all that the Father has.
And as in most good stories, the author leaves us wanting more. We don’t know what the brother’s decision was. He could have chosen to open himself up to the Father’s wishes for him and to take the blessings that he didn’t see at the time. He may also have chosen to walk away – to go to his room and to shoulder his frustrations alone, losing out on the fullness of what the Father has set before him. Our lives are filled with such decisions. Our prayer is for God to guide us to make the right choice.