Posts Tagged ‘Parable’

cainThe first Elder Brother mentioned in the Bible was Cain. Cain provides a picture of typical  Elder Brothers. They tend to be hands on. They are not dreamers watching the flock, but have to get their hands dirty at whatever they are doing. They just have to stay busy. Elder Brothers are stubborn. They think their way is best and do not take criticism well. Elder brothers are proud of their accomplishments. They resent it when someone questions what they have done, or implies that it isn’t very good (they REALLY resent back seat drivers). Elder Brothers are not very generous. They tend to count pennies. Elder Brothers also allow their passions to get the best of them, and often get angry. Sure, they usually justify and even deny their anger, but they get angry nonetheless.

Cain Kills AbleSuch was Cain, a hard worker, stubborn, proud, stingy and given to anger. He didn’t see himself that way, until God confronted him. Then he saw himself as the sinful man that he was. How did God deal with him? He struck him where it would hurt the most:

No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” Genesis 4:12

He struck him at his pride of accomplishment, that which the Elder Brother values above everything else. Elder Brothers love to be seen as accomplished, successful, worth something. Cain would no longer have good crops, he would no longer have easy success, he would no longer have a nice home to invite people to. He would forever be a wanderer.

Cain protested that this was too much to bear, that people would try to kill him. So God put a mark on Cain, to serve as a warning of judgment to anyone who killed him.

Cain - Unicorn ManHave you ever wondered what that mark was? I have. The Jewish Rabbi’s have some wild theories about the mark. The one I like best is from Rabbi Joseph who says it was a long horn growing out of his head! Picture Hellboy with only one horn.

As an Elder Brother who has experienced the DISCIPLINING Hand of God, I think I know. Whatever this mark looked like, it showed Cain’s BROKENNESS. Elder Brothers can only experience a relationship with the Father if they have been truly broken. How do I know Cain was broken? He named his first born son Enoch or Chanoch which signifies “instructed, dedicated, or initiated, especially in sacred things.” It may be considered some proof of Cain’s repentance, that he appears to have dedicated this son to God (Adam Clarke)

Cain could no longer have anything he might boast in, that his hands had made or grown. But he did have a son. Instead of boasting in his son, Broken Cain dedicated him to God. This is what brokenness will produce, and what Elder Brothers must experience if they are to know the Father’s heart. They must realize that nothing they have or have done is worth anything unless they give it to God! The Father is the source of ALL BLESSINGS, and a broken Elder Brother will know that, and give thanks!

Father: Reveal those things in my life that I am proud of, and that I am holding onto as MY accomplishment. Allow me to let go, and give them to you. May I share in the brokennes of your Son, my True Elder Brother.


Why Pesecute me SaulIn the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I always identified with the Elder Brother, but in a good way. I was the hard working, father pleasing son. I tried to do the responsible things, while my younger brother went off and broke our father’s heart. God has opened my eyes to see just how lost the Elder Brother was, and to see my life in the same light. So the question I find myself asking is this, “What must the Elder Brother realize in order to bring about a better ending to this parable?”

This morning the Spirit brought Saul of Tarsus to mind. He was the classic Elder Brother, yet his life had an amazing turnaround. He was at that point in our parable where the Father was pleading with him to come and join the feast with his found and forgiven younger brother. He thought he was OK, that he was the righteous one.

But Saul, blinded by a bright light heard the words, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”

Younger Brothers in the Body of ChristIn that one moment our Lord let Saul know that all found younger brothers are actually connected to Him! And Saul rejecting and persecuting these younger brothers was actually hurting the Son of God. The Elder Brother in our parable could only focus on what he had and how his younger brother had wasted everything. He rejected the feast as a wasteful extravagance. But in rejecting the feast and the younger brother, he was rejecting the Father, for they were intimately connected!

Saul (now called Paul) wrote years later that “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and we all belong to one another.” Rom 12:5.

asleep in our safe coffinIf Elder Brothers in the church are to re-write the ending of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we must see our connectedness with those lost younger brothers. We must see that seeking after them is the way we strengthen our relationship with our Father!

To be comfortable in our self-righteousness is to be comfortable in our coffin, safe and protected from the world, but cold and lifeless as far as our relationship with the Father. We must see what is missing. We must see that our Savior, our Christ is aching without the younger brother. We must see that by ignoring our younger brother we are actually ignoring our Savior!

Father: Open my heart to see and feel the needs of your heart, the relationship you desire with the lost younger brothers. May I see that my apathy toward younger brothers is really apathy and coldness toward You!

HypocriteJesus warned His followers to NOT be like the hypocrites. (Matthew 6:5) He didn’t name names, but I think everyone knew He was pointing at the religious leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees).

Tourist and hypocritesAnyone who has ever been in a foreign country with different language and customs can relate to what Jesus was talking about. When you go to a strange country, even though you don’t wear the funny shirt and silly hat, you will stick out as a tourist. You may try to speak the language, try to follow their customs, but it will be forced, it will be unnatural to you. A hypocrite is acting, doing something, speaking something that is not natural to them. When they are in their native setting, they will reveal their true identity and character.

Martha is an elder brotherI believe elder brothers are natural hypocrites. We are driven to be responsible, to be in charge, and we often find ourselves doing and acting responsibly even though our heart is not in it. But that is how we are wired. The challenge for elder brothers is to develop a pure heart, a sincere heart, a heart that seeks after God’s heart. To understand an elder brother, look at Martha as contrasted with Mary. Mary followed her heart, while Martha did what was needed. It did not matter what Martha wanted to do, she was simply driven to do what had to be done, because she was the responsible one. She sought approval by her works, while Mary simply wanted to be with Jesus.

Elder Brothers must ask God to examine their hearts, and reveal any hypocrisy, any selfishness, any pride. Elder Brothers will have a tendency to put on a responsible mask at church and then be very self-serving in their work and career. To an Elder Brother, Church can simply be a means of respectability in the eyes of others. Jesus would rather us be a Mary, or the younger brother who realizes he messed up yet repents and returns to the Father. Get an elder brother in the world, outside of their “comfort zone” and their hypocrisy will be revealed. Their true heart will be exposed.

Jesus challenges elder brothers to discover the desires of their heart, and then give them to Him. Over the next few weeks, I will be learning how to allow His heart to be my heart, without hypocrisy or selfishness.

“Journey of the Elder Brother” will be a feeble attempt to chronicle my journey through “The Prodigal God”.

From PathwayofBlessing

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!