the older brother & a blue bike
I’m a younger brother, and I have an older brother. In many ways, we were typical brothers. The more I read Jesus’ story about the prodigal, the more deeply it resonates with me.
All through our childhood, my older brother did exactly what he was supposed to do, and I tried my best to figure out how to get away with not doing what was expected. This was true of us not so much in big things, but in the little every day things like schoolwork, chores and especially yard work.
My Dad loved a good Saturday morning project, especially when it began early at Stripling Blake buying supplies and lasted all day long. When my Mom woke us up, told us he was downstairs and wanted to run an errand, I knew before my feet hit the ground my Saturday was shot.
For the next couple of hours, I schemed to get out of the work. My big brother took a different approach. He found out what Dad wanted to do, and worked hard to get it done more quickly. We’d return home from the lumberyard with boards, plants, dirt and big building plans.
Not soon after all the work began, I’d offer to get everyone water. After delivering two big glasses of water, I’d somehow get lost in the house; claim a need for the bathroom, heat stroke, or anything I thought Mom might buy.
Ultimately, I angled to get her okay to slip out the garage and ride my bike down to Murchison pool to see what my friends were doing. One Saturday, I slipped off with on my brother’s blue, 10-speed Schwinn. Hours later, his unlocked bike was stolen from the pool.
My older brother was incensed. At the time, I couldn’t understand why. He was old enough to drive, had a car and never rode the bike…so, why did he care? Reading about the prodigal’s brother, I think I understand.
The bike stood for something; he stayed by our father’s side and did the work, while I figured out a way to run off. In his mind, I never got the appropriate punishment.
The thing was, no matter how much work either one of us did, we were both loved by our parents. He was right, some of the things I got away with weren’t fair, but like the older brother in Luke 15 and most teenage older brothers, he didn’t share our father's heart for me.
I love my brother. He was and is a great big brother. I’ve always looked up to him and we have a close relationship. To this day, if we argue or fight about something, it always ends with him teasing me that I owe him a bike.
Like me, I’m sure you’ve felt like the older brother, too. As a pastor, if I’m honest, at times it can be a struggle to work to do the right things and see what I consider to be little or no response. Though results are God’s responsibility and not mine, I can fall into the bitterness and anger of the older brother.
Jesus’ brilliantly nudges the Pharisees in this story with the truth. They didn’t set out to become self-righteous. They were good, godly people, who took their eyes off of their Father by comparing themselves to others and when they did, they lost His heart.
This is our challenge, too. Bitterness and resentment can slip into our lives, just like they slipped into the older brother’s life as we try to lead and love others.
We have to remember our Father’s heart for us, let it soak into our mind and fully receive His love. Only then, are we able to share our Father’s heart and love others like He does.
“His father said to him, “Look dear son, you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours.”” – Luke 15:31