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Which Brother are You in the Story?

I love the story of the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-32. There are several characters in the story. Many read this story in the Bible and see themselves as the prodigal (as we all are), but the reality is that some of us are also someone else in that story. I am the older brother. I am a legalist, high moralist, overachiever like that older brother. He did everything “right” by the book. He didn’t even dare ask to have a party. But he was just as far removed from the heart of his father as the younger prodigal son who left home and was with the pigs.

The problem with being the older brother is that you can so easily miss it. I was well into my adult life before I realized I was the older brother in this story. It didn’t jump out at me because I had good “behavior”. I was doing all the right things. The problem is what is happening on the inside.

What do you think it is like to be in a relationship with someone who acts like the older brother? Well, I think it is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Guess what I did in my heart, and with my mouth to my husband? I judged everything he did or did not do, because of my high standard of behavior. (Guess who didn’t measure up to me?)

Because I held that my thoughts, my ways, my behavior was right, then if he did not meet those same standards then he must be wrong, not me. WOW, to type this is hard; but it is true. I believed I was right, and therefore he was wrong.

When that is your mindset (as it was mine), then my whole focus was on getting him to do what I believed he must do. I never asked or thought could I be wrong? Is there more than one way to look at this?


The father looked off in the distance and saw the young man returning. He felt compassion for his son and ran out to him, enfolded him in an embrace, and kissed him.


I approached everything that was a challenge between us from a superior, judgmental mindset. I only saw what he was not doing, or what he was lacking. I placed myself as judge and jury of his actions.

It took so many long years before God began to show me my heart. I then saw that I was the older brother not wanting to forgive, not wanting to give grace, no second chances…

As I look back, I realize that when you live with someone behaving like that older brother, you don’t want to come too close, you don’t want to be open, you don’t want to subject yourself to any more scrutiny than you have to. I in essence made a huge wall that could not be penetrated or scaled.

It is so easy to find fault with our spouse, to see everything we wish they were not doing and bemoan what we are not getting from them. We may need to ask God to give us the courage to really see our role. Who are we in this story of the prodigal? Do I behave like the older son, or is my heart like the father, to run toward the one that has sinned, broken fellowship, and left?

God give us a heart to embrace, forgive and restore.

~ Carla

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