The Brother of the Prodigal Son
Jesus often spoke in parables to his followers and to those who were curious about his teaching. One of the parables that I used to find challenging was that of the Prodigal Son. Of two sons a man had, the youngest asked his father for his inheritance, which would be about one third of his father's wealth. The father gave the young man the money and he promptly took off to another country where he lived wildly and foolishly, ultimately losing all his money. In the process, he ended up starving and tending pigs. Coming to his senses, he decided to go back home. He would ask heaven and his father for forgiveness and would even be willing to be treated as a hired servant. But to his surprise, his father was delighted to have him home. In fact, his father gave him a robe, a ring, and wonderful feast slaughtering the 'fatted calf'' for the festivities. Now the oldest son was not happy with these events. In Luke 15:25 read:
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
There are many commentaries on the oldest son. Some think he was a hypocrite and stayed with his father only waiting for him to die so he could inherit the two-thirds that would go to him. Others say he is an example of Christians who judge those who have sinned and although they have repented, they are still frowned upon. Others say that he is an example of rebellion against God's grace. I say the oldest son was hurt, jealous, and didn't understand why his father could be so forgiving, while seemingly not paying much attention to him, the eldest, who had behaved in accordance with his responsibilities.
I say that God's grand love is shown not only to the 'prodigal' son, but for the other son as well. The father assures his 'faithful' son that he will always be with him, and all that he has is his, thereby clearing the hurt of the son's feeling of neglect. Jesus reassures us in this parable that when we feel slighted, and even jealous--God is always with us and always loves us. And like the prodigal son and his brother, the father's grace abounds to both men. One is not better than the other.
When we come back to him, and ask his forgiveness, he greets us with arms wide open.