Summary: This sermon is about the lessons we can learn from the attitude of the elder brother of the prodigal son
Go for it
Five Lessons from the Elder Son’s Attitude Luke 15
This is one of the most preached texts in the Bible, but I believe God will speak to you today through this narrative as you are reading this. I will not be focusing on the ‘lost son’ or ‘prodigal son’ but on his elder brother. I believe Jesus told this story for two principal reasons: to explain to religious people the true nature of love, grace and forgiveness and to illustrate the danger of being idle. To get a change, you need to make a change. If there are things that need to be changed in your life, you need to make some changes, to get the change you want. Here are the five lessons from the elder son’s attitude in this unfolding drama:
1. You cannot have a full celebration until you go through degradation and destitution
How can you treasure wealth if you haven’t experienced lack? Can you appreciate good health if you have never been sick? Can you understand the meaning of victory if you have never tasted defeat? When healing comes after sickness, you enjoy it more; when you found someone after being lonely for a while you appreciate the goodness of God. However, in your time of celebration, not everyone will be happy to celebrate with you. The younger son asked his father for his share of the inheritance and travelled of out of town enjoying the pleasures of the world, squandered his inheritance, became broke and was struggling to feed himself on the stuff pigs feed on. The Bible says he came to his senses and decided to go back home and the father threw a party for him. But his elder brother was unhappy. There is nothing worse than coming to a time of celebration and you discover that those who you think are for you are not there to support you, especially when you have gone through trauma, when you have made mistakes, when you have fell into the mud, when God has been able to pull you out of the pit, when you are close to the edge, to get to you point of celebration!
There was a woman here in the UK who after considerable struggle was able to secure accommodation. We went to pray with her only to discover that her new apartment was barely fit for living, a few of the windows were broken, the heating was faulty, and a few other things were not right. The apartment was located in an extremely low residential area of the city. But knowing what this woman went through to get the apartment, it would not be proper to start criticising her or the apartment. For several weeks, she had been ejected from where she was sharing an apartment with her friend. So for her at this time, anything will do, so long as her name was on the tenancy agreement. It was time to rejoice with her, not the time to start moaning about how decrepit her apartment was.
The depth of your celebration is often a reflection of your past degradation but even your kin, kith or brethren may not be happy with you or for you. And the pain of knowing that the friends whom you want to celebrate with are not happy to celebrate with you may contaminate your celebration. In other words there is a tendency to be distracted by the absence of those who’re not there instead of celebrating those who are there. The elder son missed his moment of favour and people become cynical when they miss their moment. Saul missed his moment and became envious of David. When people have missed their turn, they don’t want you to have yours because they think minimising you maximises them. They believe they can only be elevated by destroying you, by bringing you down instead of bringing themselves up. That is why you need to be careful about manipulators: they tell you their secret to make you tell them yours; they want you to be sad when they are sad and happy only when they are. For them, friendship is about control.
2. Nil Activity is a Liability
Sitting on the seat of scorners (Ps 1:1) makes you critical of others, it makes you cynical, and it makes you scornful. And critics often make little progress. You become absorbed in what others are doing and you do absolutely nothing to make progress in certain areas. It is extremely unproductive to be inactive. Even buildings love activities. A house that has been empty for a while will not have as much value as a house that is being occupied. Ordinary day to day activities like flushing toilets improves the value of your home, it keeps it in shape. Unfortunately, there are many believers who fold their arms doing nothing, thinking all the responsibility rests on God, so they wait on God passively and do absolutely nothing! We sing songs about waiting, listen to sermons on waiting, we turn the scriptures on its head, we recite Isaiah in 40: those who wait upon the Lord… not taking time to discover that the sort of waiting Prophet Isaiah is talking about is active, not passive waiting, because running and not being weary, walking and not fainting, mounting up with wings certainly is not passive waiting, it is expectant waiting, knowing that doing what the Lord has asked you to do brings reward. God is waiting on you, not other way round. Psalm 1:3 says whatsoever what those who don’t work in the counsel of the ungodly do shall prosper. God is saying he will only bless what we do; not what we do not do.