The Berean Expositor
Volume 33 - Page 116 of 253
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The Real Lost Son (Luke 15: 25-30).
pp. 185, 186
Stier has well said that the elder brother is really the lost son. He is Pharisaical in his
self-righteousness; he is entirely lacking in either filial or brotherly affection; he has
neither charity nor humility. We cannot imagine him saying, "I am no more worthy to be
called thy son".
We read that when he was told the reason for the feast that was in progress, "he was
angry and would not go in". In brutal and coarse language he repelled his father's
entreaty, saying, "Lo these many years do I serve thee" (No reference is made to the
home life and its love and comforts, the stress being put on serving, douleuo, which
comes from the root "to bind", "to be in bondage and serve as a slave"), neither
transgressed I at any time thy commandment (Another Pharisee once wrote, "Touching
the righteousness of the law--blameless" and, after all, not to transgress a
commandment, is but negative obedience. In all this there appears to have been a
complete absence of obedience to the second great commandment, the commandment of
love), "and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends"
(Here, the elder brother speaks of a "kid", something very much less in value than the
"fatted calf" slain for the prodigal, and thus expresses his estimate of the father's love and
care all his life). "But as soon as thy son was come" (Not "this, my brother"--here the
Pharisee betrays himself), "which hath devoured thy living with harlots" (Is this just?
The prodigal asked and received no more than that portion of goods that fell to him. He
wasted it in riotous living, but inasmuch as the elder brother was confessedly ignorant of
the facts of his younger brother's life, the adverse additions which he made were clear
evidence of his own uncharitable heart).
From some angles it may be dangerous to attempt to distinguish between one sin and
another. Yet the Scriptures speak of a sin which is not unto death, and a sin which is unto
death (I John 5: 16), and the epistle to the Hebrews says that willful sin after we have
received the full knowledge of the truth has no more sacrifice provided for it (Heb. 10: 26).
The "sin" of the prodigal was a crime against himself more than against his
fellow-men.  He "wasted his substance", but he is not charged with lying, thieving or
murder. For all his boast, the elder brother was deeper in guilt, for uncharitableness,
spitefulness, malice and blind self-righteousness are blacker and deeper-dyed than
anything attributed to the repentant prodigal.
Yet, how blessed to hear the prodigal's confession, "I have sinned against heaven".
He never thought to minimize his guilt.  He never dreamed of comparing himself
favourably with his brother. We find the two attributes of mind forcibly brought out in
the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Later we may turn to that parable for
another series of short talks together. Meanwhile let us thank God for this parable of
prodigal love, and the loveliness of true repentance, remembering its setting; that it was