A man had two sons. As they grew up it became apparent that the father favored the younger son. At least it was apparent to the older brother. Father always seemed to take his brother’s side. The older brother worked hard, took care of his responsibilities, always did what Father wanted him to do. Father didn’t even have to tell him sometimes, thinking he knew what Father wanted, he would just do it.
The other son, the younger one, seemed to have it so easy. He didn’t work at anything, but yet father just gave him whatever he wanted. Sometimes they would get into big arguments, but father always gave in, in the end. One day they had a really big argument. The older brother could see how badly hurt father was over the whole thing. He told him, “Father you need to come down hard on that son of yours. Send him out to the fields with me. Let me teach him what it means to be a son in this family. I will make him work hard. He will learn how to serve in your household.” Father started by saying, “You don’t understand…” The older brother had heard this before, and would have none of it. He shut his ears, as he left angry at both his brother and his father.
It wasn’t long till that younger son took his inheritance early and set off to a distant land to make a name for himself. The day he left the father cried. But the older brother hardly noticed. Days went on and on. Each morning the older brother would head out to work for the father. Each day the father seemed to cry a little more, die a little more. His heart broke for this son of his that left. The older brother saw this and hated his brother more and more. Although he tried never to show it, he was gradually losing respect for his father. Father would try to talk with him, but whenever the younger son’s name would come up, the older brother would shut his ears. Occasionally arguments would ensue, and eventually the father stopped talking about his younger son to his older brother. But he was ever in his heart. The heart of the oldest was not only cold to his brother, but grew cold toward father too.
Every now and then the family’s servants, business associates and friends would relate the stories of how the younger son was doing out there in his new life. The stories grew more and more disturbing. The older brother tried to shield his father from the worst of them, because each time a story came to father’s ears, he grew more distant, and more heartbroken. While the older son grew more furious till he wished his bother were dead!
The mind of the father was so far away from the family business that by now the older brother took care of it all. He worked the servants, paid the bills, made the decisions, basically he did everything. Father just sat longing, heartbroken, and despondent. He had two sons. One was far away in a distant land, dead to the family. The other was far away while at home, with a heart that was so dead it could no longer feel the father’s love.
The day the father longed for finally came. The younger son came home. While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The younger son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he summoned one of the servants and asked what these things meant. ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, and you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
“‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” (Luke 15:20-32 , Holman Christian Standard)
I wrote this parable while I considered what might have gone on in the heart and mind of the older brother. Over time he lost his love not only for his brother, but in truth for his father. He lost sight of his identity as a son through focus on performance. And by not connecting with his father’s heart, he was unable to fulfill the mission of a big brother and the longing of his father … the rescue of his little brother.