Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Prodigal Son & His Brother

The Prodigal Son... The Lost Son. It's been told many a times. The story in Luke 15:11-32 has been stamped in my brain, that I could tell the story even in my sleep. It's a story of a prodigal son and a forgiving father. The lost son who returned to his father's house.
When you hear the word prodigal, what comes to your mind? For a long
time I've always thought that it means lost or sinful. No one ever told me the meaning of this word nor did I bother to look it up. In fact it means extravagant, or recklessly spendthrift.
The Sinful (Younger Brother)
"There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living."

Indeed the younger son in our story was prodigal. After acquiring his part of his fathers' property in a premature manner, he lived in extravagance. He recklessly spent all he had until he literally had nothing and eventually found himself in a pigsty. There he remembers the quality of life at his father's house. His heart is suddenly full of regrets. He longs to go back, decides on it, and rehearses his lines to tell his father. The story of this younger son is often paralleled with the sinner who repents and starts a life that pleases God.

"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:10

The Father's Love
He looks out and from a distance he sees this dirty, hungry, staggering person approach the gate. He recognized him right away as if he has always waited for this time. His heart leaped for joy. Everything changed, the sadness that was in his heart when this son left is now totally replaced with pure joy and rejoicing.

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate."

The father forgives his son for everything that he has done. At this point, it does not matter anymore that this son disrespected him by asking for his inheritance while his father is still alive, that this son reduced the family assets in half by reckless spending, that this son shamed and humiliated his father by having been involved in all sorts of immorality. To the father. it does not matter anymore what he did. The father knows that his son's heart is changed. There is only one thing that matters now: he loves his son. The father did not stop loving his son even when he was gone. He forgave his son because he loved him. This story is always paralleled with the love and forgiveness of God.

The Good (Elder Brother) In reading "Prodigal God", by Timothy Keller, I came to understand something I have not even thought of before: The elder brother did not love his father as I had originally thought. In his book, Keller underscores the life of the older brother and his attitude. The older brother always lived with his father and did exactly what was expected of him. He was obedient and lived a moral life. He was the perfect picture of a good kid an "insider" at his father's compound. He "knows" he is better than his younger brother. Then his brother comes back...

"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!'"

The truth came out. He lived an obedient life for himself not to please his father. He knew that after his brother left he will inherit everything that his father owned but now his brother came back. His inheritance has just been reduced by fifty percent. He was very angry, he questioned his fathers judgement, his purpose came out (to earn what his father had). He lived his life to gain what his father has. Now it does not look like things are happening according to his plans. To him this is completely wrong.

Sometimes I see myself acting like the elder brother. I try to live righteously, get myself involved in ministry, being kind to others to earn his blessings. I obey God because I am afraid that He might withhold those good things from me. How I pray for God's help so that I would consistently live for God. How I pray that I would obey His commands just to please Him.

Two Sons Two Postures This father desired a close relationship with his two sons. In the story, he approached each of them to come into his household. He offered the same love to his sons regardless of their hearts and deeds.


"Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."

The younger son came with humility and regrets over what he had done. He came knowing that he had sinned and needs his father's forgiveness. He knows that he has lost his rights as a son so he offered to come back as a servant. It was alright for him to have the lowest position as long as he gets in. As a result, his father took him into his household.
"But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"

The older son who lived with his father all those time refused to come in when his brother was home. He is convinced that he was always right and he believed that he was more superior than his brother. He was angry. He did everything his father told him, how come his father is now being so generous to his brother? How come? How come? It's because he lived his life to earn something. He did not get what he worked for therefore he became angry and critical. (If he'd only lived and worked to please his father he would have been content and happy.) The father went outside the gate to bring him in just like the way he did to his younger son. The sad thing is that the story ends while this older son is still outside the gate.
The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5


  1. I agree with your interpretations of this story. I too missed the older brother's attitude, and I missed the father's love. I have been very encouraged by the book the prodical God. I am so glad to have received this article by you through a friend.

  2. Hi Lynn-- Thank you so much for your encouraging comment.