"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' "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!'" Luke 15:25-30
Of all the lostness I have been highlighting this week in my posts, this one is the ugliest to me.
We have seen how the religious leaders were lost within their faith due to self-righteousness.
We have seen how a sheep was lost from the flock due to his self-indulgence.
We saw a coin that was lost because of lost focus due to self-satisfaction.
We saw a son who became lost from his family due to self-interest.
But in this post, we are going to look at another son who was doing all the right things, living in the shadow of his father, but had a heart filled with selfish indignation. He was enjoying the graciousness of the father and was heir to his fortune, but rather than living in a love relationship, he was living in resentment. Rather receiving the love offered freely by the father he was resenting the love extended to the wayward brother.
This son was lost within the family because of his selfish indignation. While he should have been enjoying life in the presence of his father, he was trying to earn love by performing for the father. Rather than living in joy and freedom, he was bound by jealousy and frustration. You can't be honoring the Father when you are trying to earn the Father's favor.
Unfortunately, that is a picture all too familiar within many areas of the Faith today.
As ugly as that attitude may be, the manifestation of it is even worse. When a believer gets so preoccupied with earning God's favor that he loses touch with God's grace, that is a problem. In this parable we see why it is a problem, it robbed him of his compassion for his little brother. He should have been celebrating but instead he was complaining and critical. Rather than partying with his family he was pouting by himself. This is evidence of one who has lost his purpose and his focus - maybe more than that.
If this parable was illustrating a potential problem or a theoretical problem, that would be one thing - but tragically, this problem is prevalent in the church. I have seen it. It is ugly and damaging. When God brings in a lost son and they come into fellowship with the church and the pastor begins to pay too much attention to that person, or when that new believer gets to the place where he is ready to step into leadership I have seen this elder brother attitude rear its ugly head.
Celebrating churches live and thrive and grow. Critical complaining churches die - and they should.
That elder brother attitude can easily creep into your spirit. Without realizing it you can lapse into trying to earn God's favor rather than receiving it and honoring Him. Unless you continually work at it you fail His grace and fall into griping.
God deliver us from the Elder Brother syndrome. Give us hearts to celebrate and remove our critical spirit. Fill us with the joy of our salvation and let us party with the Father over every sinner who repents!