In Genesis 4, after Cain killed his younger brother Abel, the Lord asked, “Where is Abel thy brother?” Cain replied, “I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” (4:9). Of course, the answer was absolutely! Or, why would the Lord ask if he didn’t bear that responsibility? We too bear the keeper’s responsibility of one another for “we be brethren” (Gen.13:8: Mat.23:8).
The Lord told a story of a father who had two sons (Lk.15:11-32). This parable paints a portrait of our relationship to our Father and to each other. The younger son demanded his inheritance of his father, left for a far country, and spent it all on “riotous living” (v.13). After suffering, he “came to himself” (v.17), decided to repent and return home. While he was a good distance away, “his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (v.20). The penitent son acknowledged his sin, was forgiven, and there was a celebration! All celebrated except the elder son who had failed his younger brother as his brother’s keeper.
Elder Brother Failed His Brother in the Area of Prevention
When the younger son was determined to leave the physical and spiritual security of his father’s house for sin, where was his older brother? Why didn’t he try to prevent and persuade him not to leave? Perhaps, some of us are guilty of this. When we see brethren falling away from God’s family (1Tim.3:15), to their detriment (2 Pet 2:20-22; Heb 6:6), and we do nothing, we fail as “our brother’s keeper.”
Elder Brother Failed His Brother in the Area of Restoration
The text simply says the younger brother engaged in “riotous living.” But the elder brother had detailed knowledge of his brother’s exploits by saying how he “…hath devoured thy living with the harlot…” (v.30). He knew of his brother’s sin but didn’t try to restore him. Maybe, some of us are guilty of this. When we have knowledge of fallen brethren and make no attempt to restore them, we too fail as “our brother’s keeper” (Gal.6:1; Jas.5:19-20).
Elder Brother Failed His Brother in the Area of Encouragement
After returning home they had reason to celebrate. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to make merry” (v.24). But the elder son “…was angry, and would not go in…” (v.28). It seems the younger son was encouraged by everyone [heaven v.7, angels v.10, the father/servants v.24], except his older brother. Are we guilty of this? A brother or sister is restored and instead of encouraging them with hugs, handshakes, and encouraging words (Heb.3:12-13; 10:24), we are irritated for some carnal reason? If so, then we have failed as “our brother’s keeper.”
Something else to think about. The elder son thought himself to be righteous (v.29), while he failed his brother as “his brother’s keeper.” Let this never be true with us.
May God continue to bless us all!