25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
So far we have talked about the young man who went away and lived a dissolute life – and about the Father who loved him regardless, and waited and watched for his return, and ran to meet him. But there is a third person in the story – an older son. He is the self-righteous one. He is out working in the field when the younger son returns. He comes home to find a party going on – music and dancing in the house! He calls to a servant and asks what in the world is going on – and the servant tells him about the younger brother’s return and the father’s having killed the fatted calf and called for a feast! Does the elder brother rush to embrace his long-lost brother? Does he cheer the return? NO! He is angry and resentful. He says you never gave me so much as a young goat to share with my friends, but now this son of yours (he does not say, my brother) has wasted your property in a sinful way (he doesn’t really know this, since he refuses to talk with his brother, but is assuming), and you kill the fatted calf for him! Resentment exudes – I always did the right thing! Don’t you think I would have liked to have gone away and lived a glamorous life? But No! I stayed and took care of the farm and this is how you treat me!
But the Father isn’t buying it! He says, all that is mine is yours – you could have had a party any time you wanted! (By the way, in the patriarchal society, the elder brother would have inherited the largest part of the estate, so his whining is about the younger brother having taken a smaller part, but gone away with it.) And now, the father says, we must rejoice, for this brother of yours (he does use the word brother) was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found. Does the elder brother get over his resentment and join the party? Or does he go huffing off to nurse his resentments? We never know, for this is the end of the story. But if he misses the party it is not because the father did not invite him in, but because he refused to go where “that person” was.
Do we behave like the elder son? Do we resent others whom our Father, God, invites in? Do we seek to keep people out instead of welcoming them home?