I think most are familiar with the story of the prodigal son, how he took his portion from his father and spent it foolishly on satisfying his own pleasures. He wound up in a far country, far from his father, destitute and feeding swine, when he finally came to his senses and came home in repentance and faith; and upon arriving was greeted joyously by his father.
This great story is a powerful illustration of the love, forgiveness, and joyous acceptance of our heavenly Father for those who will come to Him, and perfectly illustrates what Christ was saying in Luke 15:7 (...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance); which is why the story included two brothers.
The older brother, is the other prodigal. He was religious and self-righteous, but a prodigal none the less. Spiritually, he was in a far country and he was just as far away from the father as his younger brother, even though he physically remained near the father. Even though he served the father he was just as dead and just as lost as the younger brother. The difference is that the younger brother saw his moral bankruptcy and his unworthiness to come before his father, while the older brother saw himself as righteous and deserving because of his service, the performance of his duty.
The father's response to the older brother when the older brother confronted him about his deserving a party because of all the years he had served him is telling. The father's response was, "Son, you have always been with me, and all that I have is yours." What the father is telling the older is this, "All that I have is yours, you have but to ask to receive, but you have not." You see, self-righteous and religious people never see the need to ask God for eternal life, never see the need for repentance, never see the need to ask for forgiveness or salvation, because they think they have earned it on their own. Their self-righteousness has blinded them to their spiritual bankruptcy, and has led them to believe their spiritual coffers are full because of their own merits.
The tragedy in this story is that the older brother was so near, yet so far away. Near enough to ask, but too far away to see his need. So, yes, there is another prodigal in this story. The prodigal who never left home, but was always far away. This problem was not just for the religious Jews of the day, but is a problem for the religious in every age. How about you, my friends, are you depending on your own merits, your religious service, or your religious performance? Or are you depending on the merits of Christ, His performance, and His righteousness as your substitute before God? Have you come to God in repentance, and faith in the person of Christ and His finished work on the cross as your only plea before Him? Come to Him today, as the prodigal in this story...admit your unworthiness, and your moral bankruptcy. Do as the prodigal did and throw yourself upon the mercy and compassion of the Father. For if you do, He will run to greet you, as He is ready to forgive and will joyously receive you.