I just realized the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal sonS is an even bigger jerk than I thought a week ago.
Notice how the presence of the elder brother is confirmed right at the beginning of the parable (Luke 15:11, 12): “There was a man who had TWO sons . . . So he divided his property between THEM.” Though the elder brother says nothing, he is as present here as when he explodes in conversation with his father outside the banquet hall at the end of the parable.
What would you say if you knew it was the duty of elder brothers in Middle Eastern society to keep the peace at home, particularly if there was a problem between a younger sibling and the father? The elder brother, who would have been the person closest to both the father and the problematic sibling, should have protested violently when his younger brother essentially wished their father dead by asking for his inheritance while the father was still alive.
But the elder brother doesn’t do that.
What’s more, under these circumstances, the elder brother should have refused his own portion of the father’s inheritance so as to honor the patriarch.
But the elder brother doesn’t do that either.
What does this reveal to you about the elder brother’s heart and motive(s)?
(Reference: Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15 by Kenneth Bailey, Concordia, 1992)