The story of the Prodigal son also includes the older son who missed the blessing of being in his father’s house. Are we missing out on the blessings of being a son or a daughter of our heavenly Father!?
Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 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.’
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 15:25-32
The older son was not happy with his younger brother’s welcomed back. He was angry about the celebration for his return, and he would not join the party that they threw in his honor. When the father came out to plead with the older son to join in, the older son reminded him how he had never transgressed any of his father’s commandments. He had been an obedient son.
The older son had not grown in maturity. He still saw himself as a child that needed his father’s approval and permission for everything. In reality, everything that his father owned belonged to him, but he did not see them as his. He only saw himself as a servant to his father. As a result, he did not enjoy the blessings that his father had given him.
We can be in danger of operating like the older son. Pleasing those around us can become so important that it can arrest our emotional and spiritual development. Our identity can become tied to those around us, and we cannot see ourselves apart from the opinion of others. With this kind of mindset, people begin thinking and acting like servants/slaves. They may claim they are free, but their attitudes and actions tell a different story. They are afraid of their leaders and do not want to do anything to displease them. Furthermore, they may have stopped listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and assume the voice of those around them must be the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, the older sons might pride themselves in obedience and being religious. However, internally they are jealous of others who get the attention. They can also be the first ones to point out someone’s fault to ensure that the person lines up with their proper protocol. In reality, instead of becoming more spiritual, they may have just developed spiritual pride that does not tolerate the shortcomings and transgressions of others.
The older son must have been waiting for his father’s acknowledgment for years hoping to get rewarded someday. He told his father that he didn’t even receive a young goat from him. The truth is that all the goats and calves his father owned were his inheritance. He could have used any of them whenever he wished and had enjoyed the blessings of what belonged to him. He was waiting for his father to give him permission before he could enjoy the blessings of being a son.
In reality, the older son had a greater loss than his younger brother. His younger brother made some bad choices that brought him to the point of lack. The lack brought him to his senses, and he repented from his wicked ways. However, the older son did not have any lack. He just had a wrong view of his father and of himself that caused him to live in a state of lack not realizing how much he was missing out in life.
We can all be in danger of arrested development as we try to be good obedient children in relation to other people. True obedience is led by the Holy Spirit and the word of God. It is not developed out of tradition, family history, or church culture.
Obedience is a decision of free will that each person gets to exercise. When we obey the Lord because we love Him and want His approval in our lives, it brings us joy, peace, and blessing. However, if obedience comes from a need for the approval of man or fear of loss by a certain group, then obedience has turned into a form of slavery. It will not only inhibit joy, peace, and blessing, but it will also stifle our spiritual development. It will keep us spiritually childish in need of the approval of others, and we will miss out on hearing the Lord for ourselves and becoming mature adults in Christ. Those who develop in a healthy way in relation to the Lord, others, and themselves can shoulder the responsibility of the blessing given to them.