Focus Text: Luke 15.29-30

The older brother was irate! His father had gone all out to demonstrate his joy over the return of the prodigal. To this point in time, the only information that the older brother had about these events was second-handed. Yet, he had formed an opinion about the events and in so doing, challenged the authority and wisdom of his father; this fact will be key as we proceed.

“So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’” (Luke 15.29-30). This response of the older brother was his reaction to the father’s pleading for him to come in and join the festivities.

We will focus our attention initially only on one statement of the older brother. Consider his words: “Lo, these many years I have been serving you…” suppose this statement were true; should that take away from the joy of his father over the recovery of his lost son? Suppose this statement were true; should this in some way put a damper on the exuberant feelings that would ordinarily characterize a brother who had just learned of the return of his younger sibling? But enough of supposing it is true; it was a lie!

The operative word here is serving. “I have been serving you…” The root Greek word from which this English term is taken appears well over 100 times in the New Testament. In part, it means, “to submit to another,” and “to subject oneself to another without regard for one’s own will or desires.” Such was the claim of the older brother. If the father had never seen the type of attitude that his son was portraying now, it is for certain that his selfishness and self-serving spirit were clearly apparent now. Although it is conjecture, it is doubtful that this was the first time his father had seen such a display. It is hart to imagine that his son could have contained so much hate and not voiced or displayed it in some way before.

Consider how the father treated the older son, the son who was a sinner, but who refused to admit it while proclaiming long and loud his own righteousness. Had the father been of the same disposition and unmerciful attitude, the older brother would have been on the outside looking in! However, rather than cut off all ties with this son, he allowed him to stay, doubtless hoping against hope that he would change and recognize his own weaknesses and stop trying to control the actions of others through his manipulative deeds. Hoping that he would in some way be able to bring even that son to repentance just as he had seen of the younger son earlier that day.

How does God treat sinners? It is for certain that He does not treat them the way we might want them treated. Perhaps our own self-serving ways would want the scales of justice to tip slightly in our favor! Nothing could be further from God’s disposition, the One being who shows no partiality and who is longsuffering toward all of humanity. For one, I am glad He is that way!


1. What did the older son do to try to manipulate the actions of father?

2. Was the older son truthful? Why or why not?

3. What characteristics did the father possess which enabled him to bear with his sons in spite of their weaknesses and sins?

4. How does this part of the story relate to God and how He treats sinners?