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The Sins of the Elder Brother

Scripture Passage: 
Luke 15:11-13, 25-32
Attached audio files: 

INTRODUCTION:  When we look at this story, we usually focus on the sins and restoration of the younger brother and the love of his father.  But what about the elder brother?  He has a prominent part in this story.  There are many who avoid the sins of the younger brother but are destroyed by the sins of the elder brother.

As an introduction, consider the good qualities of the elder brother:
  1. He was loyal (Luke 15:11-12); he stayed with his father when the younger brother left home to party
  2. He was industrious (Luke 15:25); when the younger brother returns home, he is working in the field
  3. He is faithful (Luke 15:29); he served without fail for many years; he could be counted on to be there
  4. He was righteous (Luke 15:29); he did not transgress the commandment of the father

So, why do we have such a negative picture of the elder brother?  He seems to have all the qualities that make for a faithful, upright church member.  Yet, like the church of Ephesus in Revelation, chapter two, a church that was faithful in works and true in doctrine, the Lord has somewhat against him because he has left his first love (Revelation 2:4).  And like this church, he needs to remember from whence he has fallen, repent, and do the first works (Revelation 2:5).  Those of you who are here today and feel secure in your faithfulness to God, will you search your heart and see if there be any wickedness in you that needs to be surrendered to the Lord?

  1. SPIRITUAL DULLNESS (Luke 15:25-26) – “asked what these things meant”
    1. He Was Not Spiritually Blind (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
    2. But He Was Spiritually Dull
      1. He did not recognize the revival when it came
      2. Like Eli, he missed the spiritual significance of what was happening (1 Samuel 1:9-15)
      3. Like the Galatians, he was trying to achieve perfection by the flesh (Galatians 3:3)
  2. ANGER (Luke 15:28) – “he was angry”
    1. He Had Reserved His Anger For Many Years (Luke 15:29)
      1. He had developed the root of bitterness (Hebrews 12:15)
      2. When a glass is tipped, nothing can come out that is not already in the glass
    2. He Was Sure of the Righteousness of His Anger
      1. He was not the one who had transgressed (Luke 15:29)
      2. Like Jonah, he felt he did well to be angry (Jonah 4:5-11)
  3. BROKEN FELLOWSHIP (Luke 15:28) – “would not go in”
    1. In Breaking Fellowship With His Brother, He Lost Fellowship With the Father (1 John 1:3; 4:20-21)
      1. His breaking of fellowship was a willful act – “he would not”
      2. The younger son broke away from the father’s house; the elder brother broke fellowship in the father’s house
      3. He made the father come to him
    2. Broken Fellowship Was the First Result of Man’s Original Sin (Genesis 3:8); it is a sign that more is wrong in your life
  4. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS (Luke 15:29) – “these many years do I serve thee:
    1. He Saw Himself Righteous in Comparison to His Brother
      1. This is the only way we can see ourselves righteous
      2. This is the sin of the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14)
    2. He Failed to See His Own Sinfulness; compare this with the Apostle Paul (Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:15)
  5. JEALOUSY (Luke 15:29-30) – “thou never gavest me a kid”
    1. He Compared Lives (John 21:20-22; 2 Corinthians 10:12)
    2. He Compared Rewards (Matthew 20:1-15)
    3. He Found Reason to Complain
      1. You never even gave me a kid
      2. You gave my brother the fatted calf
  6. UNTHANKFULNESS (Luke 15:31) – “all that I have is thine”
    1. He Lost the Joy of Being With the Father
    2. He Discounted the Blessings That Were His (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)
  7. SELFISHNESS (Luke 15:32) – “this thy brother was dead, and is alive again”
    1. He Had No Joy in His Brother’s Return; consider the joy over the found sheep (Luke 15:3-7)
    2. His Thoughts Were Only of Himself (Psalm 10:4)

CONCLUSION:  Are you faithful in your service to God?  Are you guilty of the sins of the elder brother?  Since his first sin is spiritual dullness, apply Psalm 139:23-24.  Seek also your first love (Revelation 2:4-5).

David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 22:3

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.