In his Introduction to The Prodigal God author Timothy Keller asserts that “The Parable of the Prodigal” son might be better titled “The Two Lost Sons”. More specifically, the author believes that what Jesus says about the elder brother is one of the Bible’s most important messages. Pastor Keller also notes that the word prodigal means “recklessly spendthrift”, an appropriate description for the younger son as well as his father.
Pastor Keller begins Chapter 1 (“The People Around Jesus”) by stating that in the parable each brother represents ” a different way to be alienated from God and a different way to seek acceptance into the kingdom of heaven.” Each son also is represented in the two groups of people who come to listen to Jesus:
1. Tax collectors and sinners= the younger son
a. didn’t observe moral laws of the Bible or rules for ceremonial purity
b. engaged in “wild living”
c. “left home” by abandoning the traditional morality of respectable society
2. Pharisees and teachers of the law= the elder brother
a. held to traditional morality of their upbringing
b. studied and obeyed Scripture
c. worshipped faithfully, prayed constantly
Pastor Keller concludes that Jesus’s teaching in this parable is directed to the scribes and Pharisees. The climax of the parable is a powerful plea for them, like the elder brother, to change their hearts.
Today’s question: Have you adopted an elder brother mentality in response to your ministry downsizing or vocation loss? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “Moral insiders”