Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Older Brother, 2012

Several weeks ago, my Gospels' classes, which are mostly sophomores, quizzed over the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. We will return next week to take notes on the parable but at this point in time, we concentrated on the older brother and whether he had the right to be angry. I laid out the scenario and substituted one of our students and his younger brother in the equation. Almost unanimously, the young people sided with the older son who was obedient. Most of the kids believe their parents, if they had the choice, would take the older boy over the younger, even though the prodigal turned out better in the end. When I ask my female students who they see as a better marriage partner, most again choose the older brother. When we cover the parable in detail, we'll point out the prodigal represents sinners who repent/come home and all of us want mercy instead of justice. In the meantime, here are some thoughts of my students to the question, Did the older brother have a right to be angry? 

"I believe the older brother had the right to be angry although I honestly believe he was confused and jealous more than anything. For someone who does the right things and lives a life to be proud of, it can be tough to not be shown any appreciation. But when his brother who is a screw-up comes home and is celebrated? I would be angry, too. However, I would try to show compassion and enjoyment for my brother returning, knowing  he wanted a better life." M.J.

"I do not believe the older son had the right to be angry because the younger son could not have been a Christian. It should be his duty to celebrate that his younger brother has come into the life of Christ. However, even though this happened, I believe the brother had a right to be angry at his father because as it says in James 2:9, "But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers." This is a very tough decision because the older brother can either convict his father of favoritism or be jealous of his brother because of the favoritism. The older brother should not have become this angry because he, as a Christian, admits that everyone sins. Why should he be angry at his father for favoritism when he has a sin problem of his own? This relates back to the illustration Jesus used of the man who ignores a plank of wood in his eye to help someone else get a speck of sawdust out of their eye. First, you have to get the plank out of your eye. The older son is very much like all of us, though. Our jealousy makes us oblivious to important things. If I have to give a direct yes or no answer to the question of the older brother's anger, I feel I would contradict myself either way but I don't think he had a right to be mad."  Lindsay

"I think the older son absolutely has the right to be angry. I feel I can relate to this story as I have an older cousin who has grown up with me like a big brother. It seems like he always gets away with everything or has been let off easy. Every time I've been in trouble, it's been blown WAY out of proportion even if it's a small thing. Every time it looks like I MIGHT get in trouble, I hear about it all the time but any time he would get in trouble, it would just get pushed to the side like its no big deal. So, I believe the brother had every right to be mad because he was the perfect child who wanted to make his father proud and keep the family name upstanding. But, his brother ran around, doing whatever he wanted, living his wild life, and he was treated like gold. I'm sure that was extremely frustrating!" Anonymous

"The older brother does not have the right to be angry. According to the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine who are on the right path and goes after the one lost sheep. It's says in Luke 15:7 that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons. This seems crazy but the message is that if one person is saved, we should rejoice. The older brother should be happy that his lost brother was saved by grace. The father did not count all his son's wrongs against him. In the same way, the older brother also should not count the sins of his younger sibling against him. Therefore, he should not be angry." Andrew

Applicable quote of the day:
If they had a social gospel in the days of the prodigal son, somebody would have given him a bed and a sandwich and he never would have gone home.

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

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