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the elder brother Ė Tim Keller


this is a rough outline of Kellerís sermon. my comments are marked in advance with Ď-Ď

the sermon online

Luke 15

I want your things, I donít want you

the father doesnít kiss the son because he repents. the son is able to repent because the Father kisses him

this chapter is more about pharisees than prodigals

- is that so? is that what the preceding parables (sheep and coin) set up? I think itís more complex than that, more like Ďthe Father offers us restoration, and if that scandalizes us, weíre in big trouble.í the rule of three sets up the way the Father treats prodigals, then Jesus develops the Pharisee side.

- to be more precise, itís a communication to the Pharisees about how the Father sees Ďsinnersí Ė the Ďtax collectors and sinnersí the Pharisees are worried about and the Pharisees themselves. Jesus teaches us that both are lost.

nothing comes between you and God like morality and goodness and decency and respectability

whenever the church wakes up, morality is preached against

in come the outcast, out go the good people in outrage

respectable people are always outraged by the real message of Jesus

the elder brother

1. is lost

the point of each parable is lostness

both younger and elder son in this parable

someone searches for

in this case the Father searches for both lost sons

you can be with God and be far from God

ĎI never knew youí

it is possible to keep Godís orders and be lost

2. is more lost than the younger brother

2.1. because I obey, I have a right to say I donít like the way Youíre running the universe

the thing that really separates us from God is not so much our sins but our damnable good works

goodness masks your battle with God

the Bible defines sin as trying to be your own savior and Lord, cosmic treason, overthrowing your rightful savior and Lord and saying Ďno, I want to do that.í

in younger brother lostness itís straightforward, you know your rebellion. when your life falls apart, you know where to go.

in elder brother lostness the goodness masks the fact that youíre also being your own savior and lord. you donít want salvation, you just want help at certain points. when your life falls apart, you blame God because you think youíre serving Him and heís not responding rightly

2.2. goodness is your main weapon in your battle against God

you use your goodness to say to God Ė You owe me

and use it against other people, too, to demand your rights

difference between an elder brother and a Christian

CSLewis Ė Great Divorce example

we understand that to become a Christian we have to repent of our badness. but most people donít understand you also have to repent of your goodness.

therefore, donít invite people to convert to elder brother lostness/Pharisaism. then youíll really mess them up, like us.

signs of elder brother lostness

1. very angry about how his life goes. compares himself to others. ĎI deserve better.í we look from the outside and judgmentally think their lives are better. nobodyís life goes better. what matters is how you see it.

there are two kinds of anger when life doesnít go well

either Iím good and Iím valuable or Iím bad and Iím worthless

when they donít work out we get mad at God or ourselves, respectively

but the Gospel says Iím very sinful and very valuable.

- and the pity thing from Willard needs to treat the latter response, and letting go of pride needs to treat the former

therefore, you donít complain when bad things happen, because you know youíre a sinner

but, you donít think itís punishment, because you know youíre valuable in Christ Ė that Jesus already took all of the punishment

- K. has a deep Christology here

2. he hates the law of God and heís obeying

I have followed your orders. I have slaved for you.

they hate the law, theyíre just using it

- good point, but is he making too much of some of these details, exegetically

the difference between an elder brother and a Christian. both do the will of God. elder brotherís sometimes do better in the morality part. but thereís a big difference in why theyíre doing it.

when you find something beautiful, it is itís own reward

why does God love me? the elder brother thinks God wants something. but he doesnít get anything out of it. the Good News is that Jesus died for us because He loves us. when you realize this your relationship with God becomes personal and aesthetic. elder brothers say ĎIíve just about had it. Iíve obeyed you and I havenít gotten the real thing that I want.í.

- what is the real thing Iím tempted to want?

the premise is God is not the ultimate thing I need.

3. lack of joyful assurance and tremendously judgmental attitude toward others.

you never even gave me a goat

you never asked

- I worked for you like a slave

- I never asked you to.

the younger brother tried to get control of the Fatherís things without the Father by going away

the elder brother tried to get control of the Fatherís thing without the Father by staying (and putting himself in the Fatherís debt, in his mind).

when you ask a Christian Ďare you a Christian?í they know, joyfully. you can lose track of it, but it doesnít take long to get it back.

if you ask an elder brother that question he gets defensive

thereís never a party in the elder brotherís relationship with the Father

elder brother doesnít admit younger brother back into family Ė Ďthis son of yoursí. you donít know if youíre in the family, but youíre very sure who else is not.

youíre very unsure of yourself, but youíre very sure about others

Ďsinner saved by graceí Ė is this a Biblical appelation? if not, what is?

if youíre a sinner saved by grace and you understand the gospel, you become incredibly sure about yourself. youíre charitable toward others. you become the most unjudgmental people in the world

the elder brother only wants to invite his friends.

but a fatted calf is way too much for one family to eat. you want everyone in town to come, no matter who they are. they thought the Father was an idiot.

the difference between an elder brother and a Christian is that elder brothers are judgmental, Christians are the least judgmental people in the world. ĎI want you to feast with me as much as you are able. that doesnít mean Iím going to convert you.í

the elder brother canít forgive. if you think youíre saved by works, you think I would never do something like that.

Ďdonít you see, itís your self-righteousness thatís really screwing up your life. itís not your badness. itís your goodness that makes you angry, bitter, hate obedience, miserable, which is at the heart of all the problems. itís your self-righteousness. itís the cause of racism, classism, family breakdown,

all youíre doing is bashing conservative people

wrong. elder brothers are not just conservative people. moralists arenít always conservative people. (smoking, seat belts, environment, condoms, evolution, free speech, . people on Metafilter are as moralist as anyone else. they get morally outraged by certain things. theyíre just different things.

an elder brother hates evangelism. or they might give lip service to it but theyíre terrible at it (yikes! although it seems to me you could have elder brothers who are good at evangelizing people to elder brotherism/Pharisaism)

moral liberals

Ďdancing, raising your hands, talking about people being lost and found? the poor and uneducated people like that kind of thing, but youíre a college graduate. grow up.

some of you are younger brothers. and when you became a Christian, you were very excited to see that Jesus is always harder on elder brothers than on younger brothers. you hate elder brothers. youíre an elder brother toward elder brothers. if Christianity is really taking hold in you, it will be shown in your hatred of those people being destroyed.

the Father pleads with the elder brother to come in, too.


- this core message of Kellerís is huge. Willard doesnít make such a big deal of it, but itís just as powerful there, as I seized upon for my pity message.