Read Luke 15:25-32
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” (NLT)
There is such a thing as respectable rebellion. The older son in this story did all the right things. He was a dutiful son, unlike his younger brother. Why didn’t he get his own party? Perhaps because he worked too hard to have time for one. Perhaps because he figured he didn’t deserve one. Or maybe because he didn’t actually ask for one.
He is a picture of those who grimly pursue a dried-up religion marked by dogged hard work and a belief that our relative goodness is what is needed to stay in God’s good books. And this inevitably leads to our looking down on others who don’t work as hard and who struggle with life and go off the rails.
This older brother reminds us that it is possible to wander off to a far country of joyless, cold correctness as well as a land of wanton promiscuity. It is possible to leave home on the inside while staying at home on the outside. It is possible to sing “Amazing Grace” without it amazing us.
Beware of journeying to the far country of pride, cynicism, self-satisfaction, moral superiority or resentment. Beware of being a prodigal of the heart, if not the body.