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Devotional: A Younger Son, an Older Son, and a Father

Davis Carman | December 29, 2023

The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him.

Luke 15:28

The Prodigal Son Story

You probably are familiar with the parable of The Prodigal Son. In Act One, the younger son asks his father for his share of the inheritance. The father gives, and the son takes. And then he foolishly squanders it on wild and reckless living. He runs out of money and finds himself feeding pigs.

In Act Two, the son comes to his senses and decides to humble himself and go home. His father sees him from afar and runs to greet him with hugs and kisses. Then, his father holds an all-out celebration.

Now comes Act Three. This is when the older son enters the scene. This son is angry, refusing to join in the celebration. Even after the father begs him to join, the older son refuses. He reminds his father how hard he has worked and how long he has obeyed. He’s been the “good son” but hasn’t had a single party for it. He saw his father waiting on the porch, praying and weeping—his heart breaking for his brother, the prodigal. I can just see him standing nose-to-nose with his father, forcefully shouting, “This son of yours just embarrassed the whole family by spending money on prostitutes, and he gets a big, fancy party in return. No thanks, I’m out of here!”

Which Person Are You?

What are we to do with this? With whom do you most identify—the younger son, the older son, or the father?

Let’s look at the father for a minute. His relationship with the older son is often overlooked. Where is he at the end of the story? The father is out begging the older son to enjoy the same experience as the younger son. But the older son is self-righteous with the attitude: “I’ve never done this, and you’ve never given me this kind of a party.” He refuses to be happy about the redemption that has taken place. Instead, he is eaten up with anger. He’s not about to join the party his father has thrown for his younger son.

In many ways, this is a picture of the Pharisees refusing to acknowledge that the reason Jesus spends time with sinners and eats with them is that He wants them to come to repentance so they can have a party.

The Need for Grace

We typically and intuitively sense that “things aren’t right” in the world. Sin has brought a curse upon mankind, and we all know that things shouldn’t be like this. The good news is that God provides a solution to this sin problem. In His kindness, God wants to grant us His amazing grace and bring us to a saving faith. But the gift of grace is unpalatable to many. We trivialize both sin and grace, understanding the depth and reality of neither and consequently missing the significance of both. In our failure to acknowledge our sinful state and its manifestations in our personal lives, the lives of those around us, and in the world, we dismiss our own need for a savior. We identify with justice, but we need to give and beg for grace. And, unlike the older brother, we need to joyfully celebrate when prodigals come home. The father desperately tried to help his older son realize this. Let’s not succumb to a delusion that we are any better than the prodigal son, either. Even if we think we haven’t “stooped so low,” we all desperately need grace.


Dear Father in Heaven, 
I am a sinful creature. Like the younger son, I’ve embarrassed myself and You, my God, so many times. I know you love me. So, I am begging for your forgiveness. Thank you for Your unconditional love. I never want to take it for granted. And God, I am also like the older son who thinks I’m better than others. I have not been interested in celebrating when others have repented after living wicked and sinful lives. Please forgive me for my hypocrisy and soften my spirit.
In Jesus Name, Amen.