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The prodigal son had a contemptuous older brother

Posted in Bible, Parables, Religion on Monday, 11 February 2013

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This edited article about the Bible originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 129 published on 4 July 1964.

The prodigal son, picture, image, illustration

In this Biblical illustration the resentful older brother looks on as his father greets the prodigal son

When that rather reckless young man who became known to history as the Prodigal Son came home, he was forgiven by his father and given a great welcome.

A calf, which was being fattened up for another celebration, was prepared as the main dish for this homecoming, musicians were sent for from the village, and the somewhat bewildered young man who had expected nothing but disgrace and criticism found himself, if not the hero of the hour, at least the guest of honour.

Even if the neighbours were unable to congratulate the son on his achievements, they were glad to rejoice with the father on his son’s return in a better frame of mind.

Now the Prodigal Son had an older brother, who was quite a different sort of person. Steady, reliable, perhaps a little lacking in enterprise and imagination, he was so regular in his habits that you could have set a clock by his coming and going. Not that he ever went far. He had always been quite content to stay at home, working for his father, and never venturing beyond the village and the nearest market.

He was not a great party-goer either, and when he came in at the main entrance of the house on this particular day (exactly at sundown, as usual) he was surprised, and a little annoyed, to hear the sound of music and the laughter of a crowd of visitors. He decided not to go in, but to find out what was going on, so he called one of the servants who happened to be passing and asked him what all the noise was about.

The man looked astonished. “Haven’t you heard, sir?” he answered. “Your brother is home. He arrived this morning unexpectedly.”

“My brother! That rascal! Must we have a party for him? He ought to be locked up!”

“Sorry, sir, but these are your father’s orders. He ran to meet your brother and ordered the celebrations,” replied the servant.

“Well, just tell my father that I have no intention of coming,” answered the elder brother.

No doubt the servant conveyed this message as tactfully as he could. Even so, the father guessed what was wrong. A man of endless patience and understanding, who loved both his sons, he left his guests and came out himself to where his elder son stood sulking.

The son was determined to enjoy his grievance. “I have slaved for you all these years, father,” he said, “and you never threw a party for me. But as soon as this brother of mine turns up you make a fuss of him.”

The patient father answered him gently. “My son, I know how you feel. Just remember that you are always welcome, and that everything here will belong to you one day. But he is still my son and your brother; it is like someone coming back from the dead. We cannot help rejoicing.”

In the end, no doubt, the elder brother joined the party, too.

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