“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Older-Brother Syndrome, by Randall D. Kittle


As I was praying, the Lord spoke to me, saying, “Older Brother Syndrome is rampant among believers in America.” By the seriousness with which these words were spoken I could tell the Lord considered “Older Brother Syndrome” something that was infecting the Church in epidemic proportion, and something that needed to be dealt with.

To understand what Older Brother Syndrome is we have to look at the story of the lost son (also commonly referred to as the prodigal son) found in the book of Luke. Luke 15:11-24 tells us the familiar story of the younger son who, after demanding his inheritance early and wasting it on wild living, ends up starving and working in a pigsty. He suddenly comes to his senses and decides to return to his father's home and request to become a servant, for even the servants working at his old home are better off and treated better than he is. When he comes home his father (who represents Father God in this parable) runs to him, embraces him, restores him, and kills the fatted calf so the entire household can celebrate the return of his lost son.

This is when the story’s focus changes from the younger son to his older brother. Let us see what it has to say.
“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 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.” But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 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. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 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’” (Luke 15:24-32).

Out Of The Father’s House
The first thing we notice about the older brother is that he would not go into the house. He refused to come into his father's house. There are many believers who likewise refuse to come into their Father’s house. They remain outside the church — God's House. They are believers but they are not part of any specific body. It is one thing to be willing to be “outside the camp” — out of the box of American Churchianity. It is quite another thing altogether to stay outside the “House of God” — not being plugged into any local expression of God's church.

In the story, the reason the older son would not go in was that he was angry and jealous of his brother. The older brother showed great disrespect for his father both by refusing his request to come in and talking in such a derogatory way while he justified his pouting pity party. He was so disgusted by his younger brother he refused to even acknowledge that they were brothers, referring to him as “this son of yours.” In the Church in America there is a vast assortment of seemingly profound reasons given for why believers are not planted in a church, but the truth is that most have disassociated themselves from the House of God because they are disappointed in God or disgruntled with their Christian brothers or sisters. They need to be reconciled and have their broken relationship, whether with their Father or their brothers and sisters, restored.

Distancing Himself From His Brother
In his comment
“this son of yours,” you can hear the older brother distancing himself from his brother. How this must have grieved his father’s heart.

The “lone ranger” Christians who dot our land have separated themselves from true fellowship with other believers. However, any time you distance yourself from your Christian brother, you not only grieve God's heart, you also distance yourself from Him. This is automatic. According to Jesus the two greatest commandments are to first of all love the Lord your God with all your heart, and then to love your brother and sister as yourself. When you refuse to do the second part, you have also refused to do the first. You see, if we truly loved God with all our heart, we would be willing to obey His command and love our Christian brothers and sisters — warts and all! No matter how hard you may try to express your love for God, if you refuse to keep the second commandment — to love your brother — you are not keeping the first, for God has commanded us to love them. Whenever we try to step back from other believers, we will discover that we have coincidently stepped back from God.

Slaves And Not Sons
One of the older brother’s retorts to the father was
“these many years I have been serving you.” The older brother made it sound like the father should consider himself very fortunate to have had him on his side all these years. No child who helps around the house produces more than they cost the parents in food, clothing, time, etc. But even more important than his condescending attitude was the fact that he considered himself not a son doing his part, but a servant who served in order to be noticed and repaid. The older brother thought of himself as a slave in bondage — forced to labor in his father’s household.

This too is the attitude of many believers. They are slaves of bondage trying to serve enough to appease their taskmaster God (or the demanding church leadership), instead of bond-slaves who are so in love with God they willingly serve in whatever way possible. These believers who struggle with Older Brother Syndrome see themselves as servants, not sons. Even when they serve in the church it is serving out of obligation, and not from a heart of thanksgiving as it should be.

A Pride Performance
The older brother then turns to self-righteous comparisons with his brother. He states
“I never transgressed your commandment at any time …” (Do you believe that? I certainly don’t). Then he compares his great righteousness and obedience with his brother’s “who has devoured your livelihood with harlots.” He was saying in essence, “Put my life and my brother’s on the scale of justice, and you will see how worthy I am and how undeserving he is. I should be rewarded, congratulated, and heralded. I am the one who always silently serves and diligently does your will.”

The older brother’s heart sounds like the parable of the Pharisee who went to pray in Luke 18.
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12). The Pharisee loved the security he felt as he compared himself with the lowly tax collector who stood nearby. His sin seemed to vanish when examined in the light of this obvious sinner. But remember, Jesus said that it was the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who went home justified.

Those suffering from Older Brother Syndrome often become prideful and self-assured. They often fall into the trap of “comparison Christianity.” Grading themselves “on the curve” they usually end up feeling quite good about themselves compared to their estranged brothers and sisters. This tendency to compare themselves with other believers results in three root problems: it alienates them from God because of their pride, it causes them to feel justified in their separation from their brother (after all, look how bad they are), and it creates inescapable envy whenever God graces their brother with anything good.

Envy Of Our Brother
You can hear the envy in the older brother’s voice when he declares to his father
“you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.” The older brother was so jealous. Here he had been so good, and yet the father was having a party for the younger brother. The older brother literally couldn’t take it. He was bubbling over with envy. James 3:16 tells us clearly the evil of envy, “For where envy and selfseeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” When we have envy in our hearts toward our Christian brothers, we are capable of any wicked thing. Yet so many believers cast an envious eye upon their brothers. While they may not state it with their lips, their hearts question God, “Look at their lives (or their doctrine). How can you bless them like that? They don’t deserve that blessing … I do!”

Older Brother Syndrome will eventually lead you down the same path as the prodigal son’s brother. You will believe that the Father is holding out on you! That is what the older brother believed! He doubted his father's goodness, his father's desire to bless him. The truth was that all the father had belonged to the older brother.

God’s desire in this day is for the sons of God to be revealed upon the earth. Let us put away all envy and comparisons with one another. Let us take off the mindset of forced labor and serve our Father from hearts of thanksgiving. And let us reconcile our relationships with brothers and sisters in the family of God so that we can be restored to fellowship in God's House and bring pleasure to our Father by obeying His commands to love one another.

God wants us to come into all that He has for us. And just as the prodigal son's father pleaded with the older brother to come into the house, the heavenly Father is calling many older brothers in this day to come into the House of God, for it is only there that we will come into all He has for us. The Heavenly Father is crying out to a whole generation of older brothers across America who are living like spiritual orphans, “Come in, Come into the House. Come and join our celebration!”

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