Most of us know the story parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus told it to describe the love the God, the father in the parable, has for everyone even those of us who have, at times in our lives, turned our back on Him. Times that we believe that we can make it on our own. When we realize how good we had it in his presence and we come back He rejoices when we return.
That's a beautiful story but we often forget about the son that stayed home and how he felt when the "no account" son came back. When this son came home their father, instead of disciplining or punishing the prodigal rejoiced and gave him a big party.
If we're honest we've felt like the brother that stayed home. That person got the promotion and I had better numbers. I'm still single and celibate and my friend has slept around and now happily married. I tithe and can't afford a new car but my friend doesn't even go to church except Christmas and Easter and he has a beautiful new car. Need I say more?
Editor's Note: This section is based on the article Look Up by Sarah Phillips
It's natural to feel frustrated when we make good choices and get burned while those who made poor choices seem to have it easier. Yes, most of us have empathized with the older brother of the prodigal son at some point. After all, he is the son that did everything right, so we understand his pain.
But truthfully, the older brother wasn't much different from the younger. Both brothers believed a fallacy: If I do things my way, I'll win out. The consequences of a prodigal son's actions are often obvious – life often crumbles around them as they break away from God’s truth and embrace reckless living. But what exactly happens when we embrace the attitude of the older brother?
We may still attend church, continue to make righteous decisions, and maintain the appearance of wellbeing, but we begin to rot on the inside as we internally pull away from the Father's life-giving love. Here are three symptoms of those suffering with Older Brother Syndrome:
Loss of spiritual clarity. When we embrace the stance of the older brother, our spiritual vision darkens because we turn our gaze away from Christ to fixate on someone else’s life. The older brother travels down an ungodly path because he fails to see things from his merciful father's perspective. From his corner, he cannot see that the prodigal brother did suffer for his transgressions and repented with sorrow, nor can he see his own blessings clearly. He is envious over the celebration, and misinterprets his father’s forgiveness as a personal slight. While the older brother may justify his anger in light of the pain his younger brother inflicted on their father, the oldest son only increases his father's pain with his bitter, ungrateful heart.
Pride finds a foothold. Let's face it - comparing our "goodness" to another's faults can only lead to a full-blown case of spiritual pride. And pride is deadly to the soul. It causes us to lose gratitude towards our Father, obscures our own need for mercy, and misleads us into thinking God owes us something. We may make ineffective -- even destructive -- attempts to grasp at the blessing we no longer trust God to provide for us.
Misery settles in. Unlike the prodigal, the eldest brother had access to his loving father for his entire life. Yet his response to his father's joy does not reveal a joyful heart. Pride, envy, judgmental attitudes and perfectionism squeeze peace and happiness out of our lives. My sister wisely pointed this out to me recently: there's no point in comparing your life to another, "unless you are bent on being miserable."
So what can we do to overcome the Older Brother Syndrome and find peace when we feel life treats us unfairly? When your family reels from job layoffs while others' still enjoy stable employment? I think its okay to acknowledge feelings of sadness, frustration, and even confusion. But at the end of the day, it's best to stop looking at others, and start looking up.
There's another story about a brother who evenied his brother. That brother was Cain whose eveny resulted in the murder of his brother.
Genesis 4:6-8 NLT “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.