A Tale of Two Sons

I finally finished “A Tale of Two Sons”, by John MacArthur. I have a problem with finishing books that has nothing to do with the books, and all to do with my own lack of discipline. The book is actually quite compelling.

I love how MacArthur immerses the reader into the context of the surrounding parables and the culture of that time in order to understand how great was the sin of the prodigal and how lavish was the grace and forgiveness of the father. This was a shocking parable to the pharisees who are pictured in the elder brother. I wouldn’t say that I empathized with the elder brother, but I could see why he was upset whenever I used to read this parable. (I was the elder ‘good’ sibling to a somewhat less ‘good’ sister 🙂 After reading “A Tale of Two Sons”, I now see that the elder brother is a ‘whitewashed tomb’ and a ‘brood of vipers’ and a works-based legalist. I also see the need to check my own motives when I see the grace of God lavished upon others. Do I rejoice with those who rejoice?

Here is an excerpt from the end of the book (pg. 195) that talks about the elder brother…

“Any humble-hearted individual who sees himself reflected in the Prodigal would naturally enter into the father’s joy and celebration, rejoicing that Jesus would paint such a vivid portrait of divine grace. As we’ve seen from the very start, the clear message of the parable is about how Jesus eagerly receives sinners. It should end with joy, not tragedy. Everyone should join the celebration.

But the elder brother’s heart was clearly (albeit secretly until now) hardened against his father. he had stored up years worth of resentment, anger, greed, and self-will — while wearing his father’s favor as a badge of legitimacy. He never really understood or appreciated his father’s goodness to him; but he was happy to receive it and milk it for whatever he could get out of it. He completely misinterpreted his father’s kindness, thinking it was proof of his own worthiness; when in reality it was an expression of his father’s goodness. And as soon as the father showed such lavish favor to the utterly unworthy prodigal brother, the elder brother’s resentment quickly boiled over and his true character could not be concealed any longer.”

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