Did you ever notice that the Prodigal Son’s brother was never invited to the party?!
Most of us know about the Prodigal Son’s journey. He asked for his inheritance early, squandered it, and then came back to the amazing father who threw him a party for coming home. It is a great story. It really is! But what about his brother?
While we always hear about the brother in a negative light, it is important to remember that he was still a son of the good father. So, what can we learn from his short portion of the story?
Our focus usually gravitates to his conversation with his father, but if you jump a few verses earlier, you will notice what I noticed: he did not know the party was happening until he could hear it from the distance. In other words, no one invited him to the party!
Luke 15:25-29 says,
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.”
He even had to ask a servant what was happening. Talk about a punch to the gut! You see, I have always identified with the brother in this story. I don’t think I am perfect whatsoever, but I also never had a full-fledged rebellious stage. My struggles have always been more below the surface. The problem with struggles below the surface is that they can fester until the point of a breakdown, just as they did for the brother in the story.
I have to admit; I would probably have the same reaction if I was not invited to the party. But what is there to be learned from him not being invited? Or is that even the correct question to ask?
I do not believe it is.
If that is our question, we will assume he was not invited because he was not wanted. But the good father still calls him “son,” so he is in fact wanted. As much as it bothers me that the brother was not invited to the party, I believe the correct question to ask is why he wasn’t there in the first place. This question leads us to a different answer entirely!
The brother felt as though he did everything right. He had a lot of pride that became a breeding ground for resentment. This pride and resentment lead him to doubt the father’s goodness. In doubting, he took his eyes off of his father.
Jesus says he could only do what he saw his Father doing. He had his eyes on the Father!
Matthew 22:37 says,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
When you love someone that much, you will never take your eyes off of them.
And just as Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink while walking on water, the brother also took his eyes off of his father due to deep-rooted doubts in his father’s goodness.
What I finally came to terms with after wrestling with this story is this: If the prodigal’s brother never took his eyes off of his father, he would have seen that his father’s eyes were set on the horizon. Had his eyes been on the father and the horizon, he would not have missed his brother’s return. Had he not missed his brother’s return, he would not have missed the party.
It wasn’t that he wasn’t invited. It wasn’t that he was a bad son. It wasn’t that he was overly righteous (ok, maybe it was a little bit of that). It was that he took his eyes off of the father. Had he trusted that his father was in fact a good father, he would not have taken his eyes off of him.
We need to trust the goodness of our Father and never take our eyes off of Him!
Oh, how I want to live a life where my eyes are set on our good Father. It will save so much unnecessary, self-inflicted trouble. And, if I keep my eyes on Him, I will never miss the celebrations on this side of eternity.