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The Prodigal's Brother

The Prodigal's Brother

The New Year began and I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know where I wanted to go. No ideas or dreams, yet my impatience for something was beating the life out of me. “Dissatisfied” was my middle name. I had no goals or purposes anymore. They had either been attained and not replaced or never realized. In the void, I got disgruntled. Something needed to be done and New Years is always a good time for self-evaluation. So I took a day with God and this is what He showed me...

Most have heard the story of the Prodigal Son in Sunday school or church. The Prodigal Son came back home after wild living and his father forgave him. The lesson was God will always forgive you. He will even run to meet you, but I didn’t see myself as the prodigal Son. I never walked away. I always stayed and complained. Much like someone else in the story - the prodigal’s brother. That is who I saw myself as. In my wild imagination, I tried to picture what he was like. What he thought and what happened after Jesus ended the story. This is our story…

Listen. Can you hear the sound of the drum beating, the guitar being picked, the shouts for joy and the clapping hands, singing voices? The prodigal’s brother is there. He is letting loose singing about the river of God, his refining fire, and the blood of Christ covering him. He goes to daily prayer. He goes to weekly Scripture study and loves to sing and praise the Lord. He walks around with the things of the LORD on his mind, a song in his heart, a prayer on his lips. But, there is always a but, he is about to be tested. He is about to feel the refining fires that he sings about.

Not much is said about the prodigal’s brother and what is said is negative. How did he feel when his brother left? Did he suffer from the baby of the family getting all the attention? Try to imagine what he was like, perhaps he might have said…

“Why are you going? Why can’t you just stay here with father and I work the land? You’ll meet some nice girl and have children. It will be a good life. Why do you always have to be the one who disrupts things? Why do you have to always do things your way? Don’t you realize what this will do to Father?"

“Brother, I am sick and tired of farming and those blasted birds waking me at 5 o'clock in the morning, to do the same thing I did the day before, and the day before that. They will continue to wake me to do the same things forever. I feel if I don’t get out I will just explode! There has to be more to life than sowing seed and shoveling manure. There is a world out there I have never seen, amazing places and interesting people. Challenges I will never face in this boring old town. Beside the women here are dull. I want excitement! I want to go and see and do. That’s why I am going because if I stay I will whither up inside and never be truly happy.” So he thought.

Fleeting and jumbled were the thoughts of the prodigal’s brother. “My brother has spoken the words I have often thought. To go and see the world, to travel” … soon he fell asleep. At 5am the birds woke him and he continued to do what he had always done - work, sing, study, worship and work some more.

As Father lay in his bed that night, he remembered the day his young son was born. He hoped that he would always have all his children around him to carry on family traditions and their way of life. He released his son into God Almighty’s hands, praying that his road would take him somewhere and that God would protect him. He thanked God for his older son who remained with him and carried on in the way he was raised.

So, the father gave the prodigal son his share of the inheritance and he was off for his unknown adventures. Time went by and the brother picked up the slack that was left by the prodigal son. There was more work to do. Father was getting older and couldn’t do what he usually did. In the remaining brother’s heart there was an ache of bitterness. He still loved God, but often times he would get angry and question God about his future.

Often when in the fields tending the animals or the crops he would question God. “Why couldn’t I be the one to go off on an adventure? I am stuck here left to do more work than I want to handle. I miss the old times when our friends use to come over and we would spend all night telling stupid jokes and playing silly games. No one comes by anymore. Though I have tried, no girl has caught my eye. Vice versa I suppose. WHY God? When will I get a little excitement? When will I find my destiny? I use to think I had it all together. Why did it all unravel? Lord, help me get back to where I was with you!”

The Lord heard and chose not to speak. It was not the right time and not the right prayer. "He wants to be back where he was with me; I was not satisfied with that. I want him to come closer."

Days drifted into weeks. Seasons came and went and still no word from the prodigal son. During, this time the prodigal’s brother was tested and tried. He suffered from loneliness, but reached an understanding with God. He had his ups and downs. Some days he sang and some days he sulked.

Then one day it was late. He was hot, tired and dirty. There was a famine in the land. The prodigal’s brother came in from the field and detected some kind of commotion. In speaking with a servant he found out that his brother was home and that “your father has killed the fatted calf.” There is the dialogue between Father and Son, “You have always been with me and everything I have is yours..."

That’s where Jesus ends the story. We are taught to believe that the brother is symbolic of the Pharisees because of his hesitance to accept his brother. True repentance from a real sinner was not what Pharisees were interested in. They were holding on with a firm grip to the traditions of man. God is interested in forgiveness, rebirth or re-growth.

In my idealistic mind, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. The last verse in the gospel of John states, that Jesus did and said so many things that the world could not hold all the books that could be written. Maybe hidden in one of the volumes would be the squeal to the prodigal son. I am sure that the Lord wants a change in heart for the prodigal’s brother just as much as he wanted it for the wayward son. Perhaps it might have gone something like this...

What was the prodigal’s brother do? What are his options? He could go and forgive and embrace his long lost brother. He could go lock himself in his room and sulk. He could make a scene with his father about how it was unfair.

Obviously, Jesus would want him to be like the father and forgive his repentant brother. We could pursue several options like those choose your own adventures stories. If I were him, and many times I am him, I could make a good scene with a few choice words. Here is how it might go:

“What do you mean what’s yours is mine? Why did you never offer me a goat then? Here I am slaving away doing the work of 2 men, always following your commandments with little time for my friends or myself. Though they seem to have their own lives, most of my friends are now married with children. I continue to worship this God of ours, yet so often He never lets me in on what he doing and why I must continue to slave away. Why? Why? Why?"

At this point I would have jumping up a down with fists clenched.

"Why should I go welcome back this brother of mine? This 'brother' who has caused me more work than I should have had to do. While he is out having a rip roaring good time, I work. You have to be killing me! This is a joke, a sick cruel joke right?"

Maybe I would have him take his father by the collar and shake him around a bit, but I might bump into this guy in heaven and I don’t want to be the one who gives him this violent reputation.

Can you feel the frustration? There is a feeling of absolute aggravation of working so hard and going nowhere - seemingly. A grown man throwing a tantrum. “How is this fair?” as he falls to the ground not sure whether to pull out his hair, beat the ground with his fist or cry like a baby. Gradually, guests start to come out and stare, wondering what all the ruckus is. Perhaps, the prodigal son sees this out flow of emotion and mistakenly thinks it is his brother’s way of showing relief of his return. That perhaps he was so overwhelmed with emotion he couldn’t stand up. Possibly. What happens next is the prodigal son runs to his brother and wants to hug him. How he has longed to see that wise brother. He thought his escapades would lead to nowhere and so he learned that they did take him somewhere, but not where he had expected.

Perhaps, the prodigal’s brother gets control of himself and rises to the occasion and gives his brother a halfhearted hug. Perhaps not…

Might the prodigal’s brother give his father a look of disbelief? A “How can you say that?” look or “What is the use?” look. Then walk away to his home only to repeat the above scenario in his mind. This time there is no one to look on and think, “What a shame.” So, in his room he might have himself a rip roaring party too - a pity party. Those parties eventually end. They are fruitless parties of banging fists, crying and raging out to God “WHY?” In the end, you finish with a headache and a sore, red nose.

Or could the comment of a wise father who knows his son well be: “I will leave you think about what I said. I know you will make the right decision.” Maybe that is all he needed to know that his Father trusts HIM to make right decisions. Maybe after a few minutes the prodigal’s brother composes himself and goes in to welcome back his lost brother. Choosing to forgive and love the one that has broken your heart brings him closer to God than any church service or moment spent questioning God for his motives and “why, why, why”… It is then things start to click, and his own adventure begins.

Looking back I have been the prodigal’s brother for a long time. Not that I haven’t rejoiced in the salvation of a sinner. I have felt like the Father hasn’t given me a party. In my mind, it seemed like God never went out of His way to do something special for me. But like the father said, “What’s mine is yours.” It should not matter if He does anything additional for me or not. All He has done is enough. What do I really need more for? When we spend too much time sulking or giving into those intense moments of jealousy that surge in us, it’s easy to forget every good thing that GOD has ever done for us. In those moments of jealousy and sulking you make yourself an orphan; separated from God by your decision to be jealous, bitter, and impatient…

And so the party goes on and they toast and embrace the prodigal son’s return and, most likely they did a lot of eating. There is rejoicing in heaven and earth because this brother was lost and is found; he was dead and brought back to life

My resolution that year was to stop thinking like the prodigal’s brother. No more chained to envy, like he thought he was chained to his father’s field. No more desirous for parties and diversions, like he thought he missed out on. No more to question the Father: Why did you not do this for me?

The story ends without our knowing what the prodigal’s brother does and in fact it is implied that he will not come and welcome back his brother. But I persist in believing that the Lord desires that none should be lost…even those that never ran away.

by Elizabeth Fabiani

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