Some folks like attention, ~ the center… In today’s scripture, the second part of the story of the prodigal son that Chad preached from last Sunday, the Prodigal Son returns home and the Father throws him a party. Enter the older brother. The word angry is used in the scripture. We can’t be too far off concluding the older brother is jealous. The older brother is all about spoiling the party.
one of the simple lessons of this story is that we need to be gracious towards others and let people change.//// As Christians, sometimes we hinder people in their spiritual maturity by never letting go of their reputation ~~ we see them as irresponsible people, wild partiers, vulgar, uncaring about things of faith, secularists, Crazy Carl will always be nothing but Crazy Carl…whatever it is… the older brother saw the younger brother as a certain way and could not imagine he had changed.
Obviously the story is fictional as Jesus tells it; we only have our general knowledge of human nature to consider, but not hard to imagine that the younger brother was perhaps always impulsive, irresponsible, discontent, impatient… when the older brother hears the father is throwing a party for the younger brother, he immediately assumes the younger brother does not deserve it because of the way he always messes up, he took an early inheretance…LET PEOPLE CHANGE. Let them come back to the Lord and be different people. Through Christ, people can change.
Who is the older Brother. Who is Jesus talking about? Go back to the first two verses. READ Luke 15:1-2. Surely, the “older brother” in the parable corresponds to the Pharisees and Scribes, the religious insiders. Surely the older brother is Me. Contrary to what is often thought about the religious leaders in Jesus day, I do not think they are far off the track in Jesus mind. Jesus is challenging the established religious leaders mindset. The older brother corresponds to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. He is encouraging the religious leaders to take the role of welcoming the struggling and hurting, the sinners, the messy people of the community into the fold of God’s people. The older brother in the story is negative, showing us how to spoil a party, but for everything negative, there is a corresponding positive: instead of making the party all about yourself, celebrate the outsiders and make them insiders. Instead of not allowing people to overcome their reputation as sinners, expect them to change and give their heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. Never give up on people. Jesus is saying to the religious leaders, Never give up on others…Never give up on others… be ready to party when they come to the Lord….
I remember once in my first year of college I was struggling myself to figure out what it meant to be a Christian when one of my long time friends told me he had prayed to become a Christian. I didn’t know what to say because I was struggling trying to figure out which end is up. I made the whole situation uncomfortable. Years later he admitted to me that my response was suprising. Today I can do better. Today I am ready at any moment to shout out the good news: CONGRATULATIONS that is AWESOME. Don’t be like the older brother that spoils the party but rather, be ready to celebrate with those that come to the Lord. Don’t make it about yourself.
That’s one of the great things about being part of a church is that we are a community that is able to create an instant party, to celebrate whenever somebody becomes a Christian, grows in their faith, overcomes their past…let’s not be like the dopy older brother that pouts and makes everyone uncomfortable ~ let people change, let’s be ready to celebrate, let’s believe that the prodigal son will return home and never give up on the people in our lives that are wandering.
Ways the older brother tried to spoil the coming home party for the younger brother:
Jealousy READ Luke 15:22-27. ~ apparently he did not want the younger brother back. He did not think the return of the younger brother was a reason enough for the lavish party. He’d given up on Him.
Instead of being jealous, praise the one who is being honored. Join the party.
Anger - READ Luke 15:28 ~ in one of our ancient family favorite growing up stories, one night several of us were playing monopoly. The truth is that I usually won…. I was used to winning. I won so much I didn’t know how to lose. On this particular night, I was losing. I did not know how to handle it. So I ran from the table and hid under the bed. I was upset. How come whenever that story is told, nobody has any idea who actually won that game of monopoly? You want to spoil a party, get mad, get upset, draw attention to yourself, whine.
Instead of being angry, go inside and join the feast. I’ve been to more weddings and formal celebrations than the average person ~ I’ve had a lot of good food in my life. This is what I’ve noticed: The steak tastes the same whether it is for me or for another person. Be happy and join the party.
Make it about yourself – READ Luke 15:29. The Bible doesn’t say so, but I am imagining the Father pulling out the world’s smallest violin… “poor baby.” If we were in a small group I’d go around the circle and ask how your parents responded to you when you whined about not getting things your way….for those that are parents, how do you respond to your children…
Notice the older brother asks no questions about the younger brother, he has no interest in finding out what’s happened. Instead of making it about yourself, ask for the person’s story that is being honored, take an interest in other people, listen…
How to spoil a party: Compare yourself to the one being honored ~ READ Luke 15:30. The implicit accusation towards the father is that the older son is pointing out how good and responsible he’s been. “I’ve been such an awesome son for you compared to my irresponsible good for nothing pain in the rear brother.”
\Bragging can be such a way of life, elevating ourselves by comparing to others. I’ve always enjoyed the silly little story of the man whose bragging backfired on him: The strong young man at the construction site was bragging that he could outdo anyone in a feat of strength. He made a special case of making fun of one of the older workmen. After several minutes, the older worker had had enough. "Why don't you put your money where your mouth is," he said. "I will bet a week's wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that outbuilding that you won't be able to wheel back." "You're on, old man," the braggart replied. "Let's see what you got." The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles. Then, nodding to the young man, he said, "All right. Get in."
\You overcome the comparison trap by genuinely taking an interest in other people. Find out their story. The older brother could have asked more questions about the younger brother, tried to understand the situation, tried to see the world through his brother’s lenses/the Father’s eyes. The world needs more people with empathy, truly trying to understand others from their point of view, their background, how they got to where they are, truly seeking to find the loveliness in others, listening…empathy.
The older brother also tries to spoil the party by taking grace for granted. READ Luke 15:31. The older brother is focused way too much on what he doesn’t have rather than what he does have. The father reminds him of the blessings he already has, the shared life, the graces of life. The older brother’s jealousy is a cry for more recognition, more attention, more appreciation. The antidote is to find satisfaction with the blessings that are already ours. Everyday remind yourself of what is already yours and be amazed by the blessings you already have that you do not deserve.
Celebrate the joy of others. The father seeks to undo the crazy attitude of the older brother and calls for a time to celebrate the younger brother. READ Luke 15:32. It’s easy to make a party a success: celebrate. Enjoy. May celebration be a way of life!
This scripture is obviously not general advice about enjoying parties. This is a call to Christians to be on the lookout for people who come back to the Lord, people who give their life to the Lord Jesus Christ. This scripture is about the need to allow people to overcome their reputation and make life changing commitments to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders who are holding their noses at the sight of tax collectors and sinners learning from the teaching of Jesus ~ people whom the religious leaders see as compromisers, hypocrites and losers in society that cannot be redeemed. Get this straight! Anyone can be redeemed. Nobody is beyond the reach of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nobody’s life is so messy they cannot be cleansed. It’s easy to see the prodigal sons in our world and believe they can never change, to not want them to settle down, to not upset the community of faith.
Why is it tempting to spoil the party of changed lives by comparing ourselves to them, jealousy, anger… maybe we are threatened by others that change their lives because our own faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not increasing. Maybe we are shaky in our own faith, not having the confidence/assurance that God promises. Isn’t it ironic: one of the greatest ways to grow in our personal faith is to be inspired by new Christians…. Let’s celebrate changed lives. Let’s seek the stories of those wanting to let go of their past and commit themselves anew to a life of faith. Let’s resolve to never take our own blessings for granted and the riches we have in Christ Jesus.
Pray for the prodigal son in your life//// ~ we all have somebody we care about but we secretly doubt he or she will ever change. Pray for your prodigal son, perhaps a friend. I want to see lots of parties in this church family, lots of celebrations, lots of change lives, lots of renewed hope and expectations. Celebrate when the dead come back to life. Party when the lost is found. Amen.