Slave Or Son 1 - The Older Son
Updated: Jun 1
Hugh de Burgh
“But the older son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and appealed to him, but he answered his father, ‘Look! These many years I have worked like a slave for you, and I never disobeyed your commands. Yet you never gave me even a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends! But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’
Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours. It was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found’”.
This is one of Jesus’ most well-known parable, The Lost Son, or The Prodigal Son. But today, we shall not focus on the younger prodigal one. Instead, we shall learn more about the older son, who had stayed by his father’s side throughout.
The Mindset Of A Slave
The older son angrily exclaimed, “Look!” He must have felt ignored and neglected, like the father never even noticed all that he has done, or appreciated any of his hard work. He must have felt a lot of pain and injustice even as he said those words, “These many years I have worked like a slave for you”. That was how he had felt about himself, like a slave. Very sadly, it also revealed what he felt about his father, a slave master, “and I never disobeyed your commands”.
And it was worse than that. He also thought of his father as a stingy boss who “never gave me even a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends”.
In the older son’s mind, his father never gave him anything. There is no doubt at this point that he was wearing clothes provided by his father, and living in the house of his father. But he had taken all of that for granted!
The older son was physically around, but his heart desired to be away celebrating with his friends. He did all his work dutifully, but he saw it as labour for a slave master, instead of an act of love for his father. His took all he had for granted, regarded his lifestyle with bitterness, and harboured accusations towards his father.
Does this sound familiar? Have we felt the same way? Are we physically at church, but desiring to be somewhere else? Do we dutifully do the things that a Christian ought to, but regard it as toil for a demanding God? Have we taken all that God has given us for granted? Do we harbour bitterness in our hearts and accusations towards God?
There are some who leave God, like the younger prodigal son. But there are some who stay in church, like the older bitter son. Truthfully, falling away in our hearts is not very different from physically leaving God.
Do I see myself as a slave or a son of God?
Does God Want To Be Served?
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
… nor is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone. (Acts 17:25)
Jesus did not come to be served. Instead he took on the role of a lowly servant, to serve us! God created the universe and gives us all that we have. So does He really need us to do anything for Him or give Him anything?
So how about the things that we do as Christians? Why would God instruct us to do them if not to serve Him?
There are a lot of differences between a son and a slave. While both would do things for the father (or slave master), the similarity stops there. Serving the slave master only benefits the slave master. It is about fulfilling his agenda and satisfying his desires. There is nothing to gain for the slave, except perhaps avoiding punishments.
The rules that God sets and the things He expects us to do are for our own good. Really, God doesn’t gain from our obedience, but we do.
As a father, why do I set rules for my children? Here are some reasons:
For their protection
To maintain harmony at home
To protect our property
To benefit their relationship as siblings to each other
To develop their character and friendships
To develop their minds and bodies
So they can get a good education, a good job in future, and provide for themselves
To help them reach their potential
The rules I set are for their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. By following these rules, they can enjoy life, and over the long term become all they were created to be.
Keep His statutes and commandments that I am setting forth today so that it may go well with you and your descendants and that you may enjoy longevity in the land that the LORD your God is about to give you as a permanent possession. (Deuteronomy 4:40)
This is exactly why God set His commandments, so that all will go well with us. He desires good for us, and He wants a beautiful relationship with us.
Let us ditch away the slave mindset that we may have developed and embrace our special relationship with our Father. We are His precious children.
Read more about ‘Slave Or Son’ and ‘Father Of The Lost’:
Hugh de Burgh
Working as a software architect in AgTech, I serve with my wonderful wife Sonia and two boys Asher (3) and Jesse (11) as a deacon in the Sydney Church of Christ. I am so grateful to the brothers and sisters of the Central Christian Church. Your openness and love refreshed my heart as a young disciple from Sydney who came to work in Singapore in 1998, barely able to pray. Your ongoing friendship and faith continue to inspire me and call me higher!