Have you ever thought why are these people are being rewarded while I’m struggling just to survive? You think it’s just not fair.
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.
Luke 15:28-30 MSG “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’
We understand his pain.
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.
Read the entire parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and you will find three symptoms of the older brother syndrome
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 and to someone else’s life. The older brother travels down an ungodly path because he fails to see things from his merciful father's perspective.
He can't see that the prodigal brother suffered for his transgressions and that he repented with sorrow, nor can he see his own blessings clearly. He is envious of the celebration, and he 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.
Throughout Scripture we are told about the consequences of pride.
Proverbs 16:18-19 MSG First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. It’s better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous.
Satan was cast out of heaven because of pride.
Isaiah 14:13-17 MSG You said to yourself, “I’ll climb to heaven. I’ll set my throne over the stars of God. I’ll run the assembly of angels that meets on sacred Mount Zaphon. I’ll climb to the top of the clouds. I’ll take over as King of the Universe!” But you didn’t make it, did you? Instead of climbing up, you came down— Down with the underground dead, down to the abyss of the Pit. People will stare and muse: “Can this be the one Who terrorized earth and its kingdoms, turned earth to a moonscape, Wasted its cities, shut up his prisoners to a living death?”
We may make ineffective, even destructive, attempts to grasp at the blessing we no longer trust God to provide for us.
Pride is essentially self-worship. Anything we accomplish in this world would not have been possible if God had not enabled and sustained us.
1 Corinthians 4:7-8 MSG For who do you know that really knows you , knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. Without bringing either Apollos or me into it, you’re sitting on top of the world—at least God’s world—and we’re right there, sitting alongside you!
That is why we give God the glory—He alone deserves it.
3. 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. There’s a saying :”there's no point in comparing your life to another, "unless you are bent on being miserable."
So what can we do to find peace when we feel life treats us unfairly? It’s 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.