The Prodigal God and My Homeless Brother

Posted: September 12, 2009 in Jesus Christ, Prodigal God, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The-Prodigal-God We are starting “The Prodigal God” series at church tomorrow. I still remember hearing a preacher from Great Britain proclaim “God’s Chief Delight is to Give” as he spoke from this parable in chapel at Baptist Bible College. I have had to remind myself of that constantly in life, especially when things were looking hopeless. Timothy Keller does a fantastic job of laying the groundwork for our study, so much so that I am going to let him tell it tomorrow by letting him preach the first sermon. He opens up this parable in a way that I had not seen before, particularly in regards to the relationship between the elder brother and the brother who went away.

Jim and John to SchoolAs I watched and listened I was struck in my heart because I am the elder brother. I was the first born, I was the responsible one, I was the one who never got in trouble. My younger brother John, meanwhile, was always the one in trouble, always the one who seemed to have more fun because he was always pushing the limits. Smugly I laughed to myself when he got in trouble, yet inwardly I was jealous of his superior looks, athletic ability and success with the girls. John was the one who brought my dad the greatest joy and greatest heartache. John excelled in sports while I was merely a debater. My parents always went to watch John but never went to watch me debate. Dad and John fought to the point of blows, yet a mere word was spoken and I obeyed. Still, it seemed that John got all the attention.

John and Jim off to collegeJohn tried to do right at times. He even followed me to Bible College my third year. He only succeeded with the girls, and not with the grades. He was kicked out and celebrated by TEE-PEEing the entire campus. What a sight! He was always the one to break the rules and have the most fun. I got married and went to work for dad, and started having a family. John moved away to Arizona.

While I continued to be the dutiful elder brother, John made a mess of his life. He married and divorced five times (to only two different women). He got more and more into the drugs he had started experimenting with in high school. Marijuana led to cocaine which led to Meth and who know what else. John did it all. He got to where he couldn’t keep a job. He called constantly for money. His two boys would have nothing to do with him. Mom and Dad didn’t know what to do. They had spent thousands of dollars on rehab and psychiatric care, but nothing ever worked. They went to their grave with hearts heavy with grief over John.

Handsome John TompkinsJohn was the consummate con-man, fooling everyone but himself. I found him on the streets of Phoenix in 2004. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Could this be the brother I had always admired? He still amazes me, because he is surviving in a way I never could. But he doesn’t have to live this way. I got him a car so he could at least lock his possessions up (there is a lot of theft among the homeless). It lasted about 3 1/2 years. My brother Tim bought him another car that he lives in now.

John TompkinsThe point of all this – am I still being the selfish elder brother? John needs major dental work now. He is working at a regular labor type job. A friend says he is off drugs. AM I willing to be the elder brother who spares no expense to get his younger brother back to the Father? How much am I willing to spend to get John back to God? Am I willing to forgive the way our Prodigal God forgives? I’m sure the elder brother was muttering, “Why give him your ring, he will just run off and pawn it to pay for more drugs!” John did that to me many times. He has done his best to burn every bridge with every brother, sister, aunt, uncle cousin and friend he has.

What is the answer? What would John’s TRUE “Elder Brother(Jesus)” do? In His Word He tells us to forgive 490 times, to give if we have the ability to give, and to love him as I love myself. BUT THIS IS CRAZINESS TO ME, HIS ELDER BROTHER. I can’t possibly be the elder brother God wants me to be! I am so practical and reliable. I know nothing of the extravagant giving of my Prodigal God!

This series is for me, the elder brother. May God touch my heart and enlarge my view of how GIVING and FORGIVING God wants me to be! INCREASE MY FAITH!

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Comments
  1. Tim says:

    Jim, You should write the rest of the story, it seems to me that you left a lot out. It would be interesting to see if Mom & Dad saw you as the responsible one? I believe Dad went to his grave with much heartache about all his sons. As to your question, I believe the answer is in the story of the log and the spec in the eye.

    Your brother,

    Tim

    Ps. I also supported John for two years with a place to work and a place to live

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