Summary: This is the second of a two-part series looking at the story of the lost son. This week’s message looks specifically at the older brother.
In the Wrong Shoes
I had draped two new pair of sweatpants over the side of the red, plastic shopping cart as I approached a display of items at the end of a row in Target this week. There was a younger couple standing there already, and I can only assume they were registering for an upcoming wedding because they had one of those scanning guns in hand and were trying do decide which item to scan next.
I didn’t really want to reveal what I was there to purchase, so I pretended to be preoccupied with the items on the next shelf until they left. It seemed like it took them forever, and I had plenty of time to consider how silly I was being for waiting. When it came to the sweatpants, I didn’t care about the people walking by as I searched for what I wanted. Why was this any different?
When they finally left, I was free to browse the selections of their bathroom scales. There were about eight to ten models, but it took me about ten minutes to make a selection. Each scale seemed to have a different set of options. While all of them claimed to measure your weight in pounds, some of them could measure body fat by sending a small electric pulse through your body. Not only that, supposedly they could measure your muscle mass, your body’s hydration level, your BMI reading. What does that even mean?!
I started to wonder if there was a scale that could tell me the latest sporting news or information about the weather. Ultimately, I made a selection, completed my purchase, and arrived home ready to tackle my new goals. Last week I joked, tongue-in-cheek, about New Year’s resolutions; but, to be honest, I made some and my health was near the top.
What was my problem? Why was I so self-conscious about picking out a bathroom scale? Some of you are probably think I’m being foolish, but I really wanted some privacy as I examined the scales. Unfortunately, I know exactly why I needed a little elbow room. When I stand on the scale, I’m not happy with what it has to say.
Out of all of the options available, I made certain my scale wasn’t one of those talking scales. The last thing I want is for my children to hear this piece of metal coughing and shouting, “Get off…I can’t breathe!”
The reality is I need to make some serious changes in lifestyle. When my wife married me eleven years ago, I was over 100 pounds lighter. (I don’t think this is what she had in mind when she wanted me to become a greater man.) Not only am I not happy with what the scale has to say, my own doctor is in on it and has encouraged me to take action.
Because we’ve just come through the holiday season, I probably
wasn’t the only one who approached the scale with much fear and trepidation this past week. There are just times in life when we don’t like what the scale has to say. Our story, today, deals with a different sort of scale—the scales of justice—but it contains a character who is outraged by a terrible injustice that has taken place…an older brother who doesn’t like what the scale has to say.
In verses 28-30, we hear his plight, “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!’”
To be honest, at first glance, I can completely understand the older brother’s frustration here. My parents had two boys, and I’m the oldest. Are there any other oldest siblings here today? Life was rough for us, wasn’t it? I won’t even begin to touch the debate about whether older or younger siblings have it better or worse, but it is clear in this story that the older brother had lived a life that appeared to be much more obedient—that honored his father more than his younger brother.
Last week we talked about the fact that the younger brother essentially wished his father was dead…he just wanted to make away with whatever material gain he could garner from his father. He blows it all in a matter of a few days while the older brother remains with his father with likely twice the chores.
As we looked through the lens of the younger brother who really blew it, this story was one of great news. It was so refreshing to read about the character of the father who released his son; who received him back; who restored him to a position of honor, authority, freedom, and sonship; and who rejoiced and threw a huge party. What great news for those of us who have found ourselves a long way from home and in need of the father’s forgiveness.