Summary: A series on Luke 15
Lost and Found!
Over the last three weeks we have been looking at what has been called the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In this masterpiece, Jesus communicates several lessons. I believe the main point of this story is to show us what God is really like; He not some impersonal tyrant who is too busy to care about you. He is a loving Heavenly Father who has numbered the hairs on your head. He will forgive you when you return to Him. We also learn that if you wander away from God, you can repent and return to His open arms. Today, as we look at the older brother, we learn another important lesson.
Let’s review the first part of the parable. A man had two sons and the younger son demanded his inheritance and took the money and ran. He went away and wasted all the money on wild living. He ended up broke, hungry and miserable in the mud and mess of a hog pen. When he came to his senses, he confessed to God that he had sinned and he headed home. He wasn’t sure how his father would receive him, so he was prepared to take the job of a servant. But when the daddy saw him, he ran to meet him. The Father embraced his son and showered him with kisses. The father dressed his son in a new robe, gave him a family ring, put shoes on his feet and killed the fattened calf. They had a wonderful celebration. It would be nice if the story ended there, but Jesus had a message for the religious Pharisees who were listening. Read Luke 15:25-32.
I call his older brother, the Pouting Prodigal. Although he never left his home physically, it’s obvious he had a dysfunctional relationship with his father and with his brother. He represents many religious folks here today who haven’t sinned against God by running off and going wild. In fact, your life is so tame and boring that “wild living” isn’t part of your vocabulary. You’ve been around for a long time warming a pew. But when it comes to really celebrating what God is doing in the lives of others, you don’t rejoice. I’m convinced there are many more people in this room who are guilty of the “older brother syndrome” than are guilty of the younger son’s sin. To see if you are, let’s examine the:
I. CHARACTERISTICS OF A POUTING SON
After working all day in the fields, the older brother arrived at his house only to hear the Karaoke music shaking the rafters. When he learned the party was for his younger brother’s return, he became angry and refused to enter into the celebration. In his attitude and statements we can find three characteristics of a pouting prodigal:
(1) An angry spirit of complaining. Verse 28 tells us he became angry. It’s the word orge which means he flew into a rage. When his father came out to plead with him to join the party, he began to grumble and complain. He said, “I’ve never left home and spent all my money on prostitutes, and you’ve never even killed a little billy goat for me!” Can you hear him whining?
Sometimes church members who have been around for a long time get jealous when a church starts paying attention to new people. That’s the older brother syndrome. You can recognize an older brother Christian because they are quick to grumble and complain. You can call them grumblers, complainer, or gripers. They usually begin a sentence, “Now I don’t mean to be critical but...” and then that’s exactly what they do–criticize. Hey I’m not angry at these people, the Father loves them, and I do, too. You want to say to them, “Come on in and join the party!” But they’d rather be miserable and stand on the outside with their arms crossed, a sour expression on their face.
They say things like, “Pastor, I don’t think we ought to clap our hands in church, and last week I counted three people that lifted their hands during a song. I’m afraid we’re going to turn into a bunch of them ‘charsmatics’ if we aren’t careful.”
The funny thing is these are some of the same people who will go to a college football game and lift their hands in the air and shout “Touchdown!” Or, lift their claws, or hook ‘em horns, or bend over and whoop–and they are happy when they do it! But they’re afraid things are going to get out of hand in church. Vance Havner used to say, “Some people are so afraid of getting out on a limb that they never get near the tree!”
“And, pastor, we sing too many praise songs–the music’s too loud. And pastor, I saw a guy walk down the aisle and he had an earring on–you gotta preach a message against that. And I saw a guy with shorts on!! You gotta stop that. And who brought the drums in the church in the first place? And by the way pastor, our services are way too long, the Methodists are beating us to the restaurants!” That’s how you can spot a pouting prodigal ten pews away–they are seldom happy and they are constantly complaining about something they don’t like! I heard about a Sunday School teacher who told the story of the Prodigal son. She told about the Prodigal returning and the father hugging the son. The father put a ring on his hand, shoes on his feet and killed the fattened calf. But the older son refused to join the party. After the story it was question time. She asked the students, “Boys and girls, who was not happy because the prodigal son returned?” One little boy answered, “The fattened calf!” Funny, but the older son wasn’t happy either. Do you know anyone like that in this church? They just can’t be happy about what’s going on? Maybe you are the older brother who is full of resentment and bitterness.