How not to become the elder brother

A reflection on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Three characters dominate the parable of the Prodigal Son, sometimes called the Parable of the Loving Father. And we—you and I—at different points of our life, are all three.

Perhaps in our younger years, and definitely in our unrepentant phases of life, we can identify with the younger son…the humiliated sorrow and long journey home begging for mercy and forgiveness. And the experience of absolute love from another or from our heavenly Father, unconditional compassion and forgiveness.

But there are other times when we find ourselves, much to our sorrow, in the shoes of the elder son. To me, to be in this angry, narrow-minded, self-serving son’s shadow, even if only in the obsessing thoughts that pester me like flies, is worse.

John Ortberg states so accurately: “One of the hardest things in the world is to stop being the prodigal son without turning into the elder brother.”

God has amazing ways of knocking on people’s hearts, awakening desires, arousing questions, provoking an unexpected spiritual fire. If you have enjoyed this article, and are ready to embark on a sustained spiritual journey, here are 4 ways you can join me on the journey. You can learn more about them at

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