Bible Society of South Africa

Grace: Grace to an angry son – 3 November 2022

By Louise Gevers

Bible text(s)

28“The elder brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in.

Luke 15:28GNBOpen in Bible reader

Philip Yancey’s view that, “Grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us” might well have fallen on the deaf ears of the older brother later in yesterday’s parable. He’d been a dutiful son, but couldn’t tolerate his father’s display of grace to his wasteful, younger brother, an example of someone who could see “the speck in (his) brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the log in (his) own eye”.(Matthew 7:5)

When a child feels he’s been treated unfairly, jealousy and resentment can often colour their feelings, and understanding and kind-heartedness towards a sibling becomes progressively more remote.

Jesus, who was also aware of the underlying unyielding attitude of the Pharisees towards the “sinners“ of the day, understood these well-known family dynamics and compared them against the different dynamics of the Kingdom of God in which forgiveness counts, and there is generosity of spirit; where there is an experience of God’s grace and not the unsympathetic attitude often encountered between siblings of all ages.

The older brother clearly possesses an unsympathetic mindset in the situation in which he feels that he’s been overlooked and treated unfairly; he’s seething as he compares his brother’s bold, disgraceful actions with his own “righteous” behaviour, and negatively judges his father’s grace toward him: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” (Luke 15:29-30)

It can be hard to be the older son, sometimes feeling the weight of unassigned responsibility, outraged at his brother’s actions, and jealous of his father’s kindness to him as, conscious of his own efforts, he feels he is owed acknowledgment and favour; but his insolent, unjust attitude towards his father blinds him to his love and concern for him.

The father of yesterday’s parable, is, like God, the same father of today and the same generosity of compassion and grace is uncovered as he now displays the same patient love and grace towards his older son as he’d shown his repentant younger son, ignoring his resentful outburst. He tries to persuade him what is of true value, pleading for his son to open his heart and broaden his understanding so that he, too, can benefit from the miracle of grace that has taken place through his brother’s redemption: “‘My son,’ the father answered, you are always here with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost but now he has been found.’” (Luke 15:31-32)

God’s love, like this father’s, is for all his children and He makes this miracle of grace possible for all people to be found, not by what we do, but by his mercy and grace.

“The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins.”
(2 Peter 3:9)

Prayer: Our Father, your love and grace to us are immeasurable; please give us the grace to understand and be found. Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.18.10
Find us on