Parables of Jesus: The (Self) Righteous Brother

Focus Passage: Luke 15:25-32

I confess that there are times when I am self-righteous. Lord forgive me for the times when I hear of someone who is struggling and I feel better about my life. We often forget about the second brother in the parable of the lost son. He was just as lost as the first brother and sometimes, so are we.

Most of us can relate to the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal son. We have looked at a beggar on the street who has two good hands and two good feet and thought him lazy. We have been upset with someone swearing at a ball game and wondered why they have no manners. Such feelings seem justifiable. The world is filled with sinners who are destroying their lives. We have better character and we may be avoiding some of their problems. We are the righteous ones. Yet, that righteousness is not from us. We have been made righteous by our God and by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is not self-righteousness, but God righteousness. When we forget that righteousness is a gift from God we can rob ourselves of all the joy that God brings into our lives.

Over inflated self-worth v. 29b His words say it all. The older son has been out in the field working hard. Did anyone notice his hard work given day after day for the months or years that the younger brother was out playing around? He sees how the father and others value the younger son, but do they value him? Where was the celebration for his years of service? His reaction starts with an ego that is crushed. This celebration should be his celebration and be for the wayward brother. 

Misses the blessings he has had for years v. 29a The older brother has begun to think of his service as a duty. “This farm wouldn’t function without all the work that I put in day after day. You are lucky to have me. What if we had both run off like that worthless son of yours. You would be in trouble.” He has forgotten all that he received that the younger son missed. He had the father’s love every day and sat at a table filled with the best of food. He had been comfortable while his brother was suffering.

Contempt for others who do not feel our worth v.30 Ultimately, the older brother shows contempt for the father as well as his brother. In his self-righteousness, he is angry with anyone who does not feel just like he does. His self-righteousness creates a chasm between the father and him. If the father loves the younger son, then he must not love me. Self-righteousness makes us feel contempt for anyone who does not agree with us. People who have done nothing wrong are suddenly the enemy.

In some ways, this brother was just as lost as the younger brother. His heart is in a far country far removed from the Father’s love and character. The cure for his self-righteousness begins with the father’s love (v.31). In the text, the Father came to the older son to plead with him. The father is loving and gracious with this son. It is obvious that he values the older son and sees this son as important to him. It is only the love of the Lord that can break into a selfish heart. The story ends with the older brother standing outside the house. His anger has robbed him of the joy and celebration with family and friends. His bruised ego causes him to stand isolated from others grumbling and complaining. His pride won’t let him celebrate for his brother. When we see someone trapped in self-righteousness, we need to love them with God’s love, but most of all we need to pray for them. We need to help them to know that they are valued and appreciated for all that they do. Every child of the Father is special.