Bible Reading: Hebrews 12:12-17
The biggest hindrance to people coming to Jesus are the people in the House of God, who are just as lost as the younger brother but don’t realise it and put other people off! They act in a religious way but they do not portray Jesus or the truth. The people who have contact with them think that this is what Christians are like and get a totally wrong picture of what it means to be a real Christian! Their understanding of God’s Kingdom becomes totally warped.
There was something seriously wrong with the elder brother and it kept him out of the father’s love feast! He was angry, threw a tantrum, and refused to go the feast [Luke 15:28]. He was in the father’s house but just as lost as his younger brother. Over the next few days, we will look more closely at this elder brother and the first thing we see is anger, resentment and bitterness.
In some ways, we might feel sorry for the elder brother. He had always tried to do what was right, was well behaved and had done nothing that would offend or shame his father. He felt that because he has worked so hard, served his father well, and never transgressed his father’s commandments, he should’ve been the one who deserved to be blessed with the fatted calf and a party, and not his wasteful, openly sinful younger brother. His words, “You never gave me a young goat… but you killed a fatted calf for him,” powerfully portray his emotion, anger and jealousy. You could almost hear him spit out the words, “It’s not fair!”
The problem with bitterness and resentment is not just that it is opposite to the nature and character of God, but it is like a spiritual cancer that spreads and affects the whole person and then further spreads and damages other people. Gossip and bitterness are twins. Rarely does bitterness keep its feelings to itself. I can imagine that the elder brother would share his hurt with his close friends who would agree with and support his point of view. Even more dangerous are the advanced stages of bitterness when the heart becomes so hardened that it is unable to recognise the truth or be able to come to repentance. Tomorrow we will look at a practical example of the destructive and divisive nature of bitterness in a church.
There is a fine line between righteous anger and ungodly anger. When do you think that line is crossed?
If the elder brother had been a godly man, what do you think his attitude should have been towards his younger brother and the way in which the father had blessed him?
Have you encountered people who are bitter in church and how did you deal with the situation in your own heart?