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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner


It is noteworthy that the seven deadly sins (pride, covetousness, lust, envy, anger, gluttony, and sloth) are all matters of attitude, inner spirit, and motives. Sadly, many carnal Christians carry with them inner spirit problems. They are like the elder brother of the prodigal son, thinking they do everything right. He chose to stay home with the father. No way was he going to spend his time sowing wild oats. Yet, when the younger brother came back home, some of the elder brother’s wrong attitudes began to surface.

First came a feeling of self-importance. The elder brother was out in the field doing what he ought to do, but he got mad when the party began at home. He didn’t get mad because he didn’t like parties. I know he liked parties, because he complained to his father that he never got to throw one!

That was followed by a feeling of self-pity. The elder brother said, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him” (Luke 15:29–30).

Often we overlook the true meaning of the story of the prodigal son. We forget that we have not one but two prodigals. The younger brother is guilty of the sins of the flesh, whereas the elder brother is guilty of the sins of the spirit (attitude). When the parable closes, it is the elder—the second prodigal—who is outside the father’s house.

This “elder brother” attitude has three possible results, none of which is positive.

First, it is possible for us to assume the place and privilege of a son while refusing the obligations of a brother. The elder brother outwardly was correct, conscientious, industrious, and dutiful, but his attitude was wrong. Also note that a wrong relationship with the brother brought a strained relationship with the father (v. 28).

Second, it is possible to serve the Father faithfully yet not be in fellowship with Him. A right relationship will usually cultivate similar interests and priorities. Yet the elder brother had no idea why the father would rejoice over his son’s return.

Third, it is possible to be an heir of all our Father possesses yet have less joy and liberty than one who possesses nothing. The servants were happier than the elder son. They ate, laughed, and danced while he stood on the outside demanding his rights.

A wrong attitude kept the elder brother away from the heart’s desire of the father, the love of his brother, and the joy of the servants. Wrong attitudes in our lives will block the blessings of God and cause us to live below God’s potential for our lives.

John C. Maxwell, How High Will You Climb? Determine Your Success by Cultivating the Right Attitude (Nashville, TN: HarperCollins Leadership, 2014).

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