Read Luke 15:25-32
The fact that there were two brothers in that family is not incidental; it is basic to the meaning of the parable. The younger brother, of course, represents the publicans and sinners who were willing to repent and follow Christ, while the elder brother is an illustration of the Pharisees who criticized Jesus and His converts.
These two brothers illustrate two kinds of sins: sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. The younger brother got involved in “riotous living” as he yielded to the desires of the flesh. The elder brother kept his body and his life clean, but he was still a sinner! As Paul expresses it in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” That faithful older son may not have been guilty of filthiness of the flesh (and we’re thankful), but what about filthiness of the spirit?
Here is where the dedicated Christian needs to take warning, for the sins of the spirit are just as bad as the sins of the flesh; and, in some ways, perhaps they are worse. The Pharisees were morally clean, but they were so proud and critical that nobody could stand them. The elder brother was faithful to obey his father’s commands, but he failed to share his father’s love. He was hateful; he had an unforgiving spirit; he was proud and self-satisfied; he demanded special attention and pouted when he did not get his way! He publicly announced his brother’s sins instead of hiding them under a covering of love.
David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me (Ps 51:10). A clean heart and a right spirit — what more could a Christian desire?
(Copyright, Warren W. Wiersbe. First appeared in Thoughts for Men on the Move. May not be copied or reproduced without express written permission of the author.)
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).