When Life Ain’t Fair

Sermon January 12, 2020 – PastorBryon {NO AUDIO}


As Paul was bringing his letter to the Philippians to a close he told them this,” whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—keep thinking about these things.”

Now I would say, and I’m sure you would agree, “whatever is fair” is subjective, meaning we define fair based on our own experiences. Paul’s words were meant to tell the Philippians to keep your focus on positive things in this world not negative. He also tells us that we don’t set the standard for what is fair or acceptable or commendable, God does.

How often have we heard someone use the phrase, that’s not fair? We hear it from our children, spouse, co-workers, our church family and on and on. We try and measure it in our marriages and no matter how hard you try you’ll never get that scale of fairness to balance out.

The human services field defines fair as this, “fair isn’t everyone getting the same thing, fair is everyone getting what they need to succeed.”

Scripture: Luke 15:11-32 

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”


About the story

This popular parable teaches us about the mercy of God. The son represents either the lost soul or the Christian who left the fold. The father represents God and demonstrated His mercy. This is one of the most preached passages in prisons, jails, and homeless shelters. The story teaches no matter how far out in the world you’ve gotten or how much sin you’ve purposely gotten into God loves you and desperately wants you to return; His forgiveness has no limits. It’s a story of hope and forgiveness.

A Sunday school teacher was telling his class the story of the Prodigal Son and after describing how the household was rejoicing over his return the teacher wondered if they were following the story and so he asked, “Who can tell me, who wasn’t very happy when the prodigal son came home? And a young girl raised her hand and said, “The fatted calf.” True! However there was another who wasn’t happy about the son’s return.

Before we get too far into this parable it’s important to establish some context. Who was Jesus talking to and why was he telling this story. Each of the three main characters represents someone who was standing there that day Jesus told this parable. The younger son represents the sinner, not just the lost, but the ones who knew God but were living out of fellowship with Him. The father represents God and the older brother represents the Pharisees or religious leaders of the day who were there challenging Jesus because he was associating with sinners.

Today we aren’t going to focus on the younger son but the older son. He was the one who stayed home, worked hard, was thrifty and doesn’t seem to ask for much. The older son was the one who seemed to be doing everything right yet he was the only one in the story who wasn’t happy at the return of the younger son.

The first part of the scripture is mostly about the younger son. He is the one who is being demanding and eager to get away. In fact, for the first 14 verses of this parable there wasn’t much said about the older brother until verse 25. However, there is one word I want to point out to you that is most often missed but very important to get to understand exactly what was going on.

The younger brother may have been thinking about this for some time. In my mind I see it as a demanding child acting out against his father. He probably wasn’t respectful or even nice about it. He wanted what was his and he wanted it now. It was customary in Jewish families for the children to get their inheritance once their father died but not unheard of for a father to split his inheritance while he was still alive. As the younger son he would only get 1/3 of his father’s estate while the older son got two thirds.

Verse 12 states the father divided his livelihood to ‘them’.

Isn’t that interesting? He not only gave the younger son his 1/3 he gave the older son his 2/3. Now I didn’t read where the older brother complained at this point. In fact, he’s quiet.

As the story continues we fast forward to the celebration. The older brother is doing what the good son does, he’s working the fields. He hears a racket and asks one of the servants, what’s going on. I imagine with some excitement in his voice the servant responds, oh didn’t you know, your brother has returned and your father has had the calf slaughtered for a celebration.


Did the servant say anything about the younger brother squandering all his money? Did the older brother know the younger brother had hit rock bottom? Did he know the father gave him a ring or shoes or anything else? NO! All he knew was his sorry, spoiled, good for nothing brother was back and let the part begin!

What was the older brother’s response?

  • Surprised by his return (v26)
  • Angry that he was back (v28)
  • He declared his own self righteousness (v29)
  • Jealous and offended that his father is going all out to welcome him home and forgiving him. (v30)
  • He focused on his brother’s sin. (v30)

What happened? How did the older brother who was always with the father, always doing the right thing, always in church, always appearing to be good get so jaded?

John Bevere a Christian author from the UK said, “The knowledge of God’s Word without love is a destructive force because it puffs us up with pride and legalism.”

The older brother was missing the one element that is essential to every spiritual leader, to every Church, to every Christian, LOVE.

The book of Colossians says that love binds us together in perfect unity.

1 Peter 4:8 teaches; above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Paul said we are to be devoted to one another in love and to honor one another above ourselves (Romans 12:10).

1 John 4:2 says, No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

The theme of the Bible is love and without love the church gives the impression that God is not love!

How often do we see people taking the role of the older son in church? When we want to complain about someone else, Gossip about someone’s sin or complain that something isn’t fair. The truth is that if we asked God to make things fair we wouldn’t like the outcome.

Before we are too hard on the older brother let’s take a closer look at him. Let’s look past his behavior to try and understand him better.

Scripture says that the older son became angry. There are five things that produce anger.

Causes of anger:

  • Fear
  • Embarrassment
  • Shame
  • Helplessness
  • Loss

So what emotions was the older brother most likely experiencing? Possible all.

It’s easy for us to look at this story and look at the older brother and say how wrong he was. We can call him a Pharisee or legalistic church goer but when we look through the eyes of the world we will find ourselves falling into the same trap the older brother got into.

What we should ask ourselves is

  • How did he get like this?
  • Am I responsible?
  • How do I help get him back?

Remember the definition of fair? Everyone getting what they need to succeed. The older brother stopped showing love. So our responsibility to the older brother as Christians is to win his heart back. Because when people feel loved they show love.



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