What can we learn from the older brother of the prodigal son in Luke 15?

Derek Thomas & Joel Kim
2 Min Read

KIM: I believe that I am like the older brother and not the Prodigal Son of that parable. Though, in a sense, all of us are prodigals, running away from God in rebellion and sin.

I was born into a Christian family, I am a minister, I have never strayed much in my faith and my understanding of it, and I have never known a day where I was apart from the loving presence of Christ Jesus. I never had anything to share around the fire pit at youth group retreats like some kids who smoked or ran away from home. They got much more attention than myself, who said: “I love being home and attending church. I wish I had a story to tell.”

The struggle as a person who has always experienced God’s grace and love is that it becomes so common and present that you forget about it. You want to be that guy who stands out, who has the story. You want to be that person who can look back to a turning point in his life. That mindset, however, can lead to a lot of traps.

To give you one example, as ministers and those involved in teaching, we sometimes forget that godliness is more important than giftedness. Busyness is not necessarily blessedness. Oftentimes, we seek the things that make us stand out while forgetting that the constancy of God’s presence and care was over us the whole time. We often miss the sense of jealousy and insecurity and the desire to be noticed and embraced within ourselves. The problem is not what the Lord has done but our lack of faith in recognizing and seeing those things. As someone who is a struggling “older brother,” this is a meaningful and practical question.

THOMAS: There is a beautiful moment in part two of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress when Mercy and Christiana are in the Interpreter’s house, and they see a man with a muckrake. He is looking down, and all he can see is the muck. But above his head, there is a crown. That is the picture of who we are, but we do not realize it as we should. This brother was already a son, but he was looking down. We must realize, each day as we wake up: “I’m the child of a King, I’m the child of a King. With Jesus my Savior, I’m the child of a King.”

This is a transcript of Joel Kim’s and Derek Thomas’ answers given during our 2021 National Conference and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.