Leave the Older Brother Alone

If you have spent any considerable amount of time in a church Sunday School class, you may have heard the Biblical parable of the “Prodigal Son”. This story is also called the “Lost Son” in some Bible versions (among other titles). If this narrative does not sound familiar, allow me to briefly summarize…A young man approaches his father and demands his inheritance so he can start “living his life” immediately. The father reluctantly agrees, and gives this boy the biggest payout of his life which leads to this young man living on impulse and squandering everything.

Scripture indicates that the wealth the boy was given was “liquid currency” meaning immediately spendable income. In ancient inheritance practice, this son would have also been entitled (unless the father deemed differently) to a certain portion of the family land. The older brother (there were only two sons in this family), in the case, would have been entitled to double the portion of inheritance that the youngest would have received. After spending all of the money and becoming homeless, the prodigal (meaning “one that squandered monetary resources”) returned home to a very warm and mercy-filled reception. The older brother was angry at this grace given to his sibling.

So, normally, we read this story and get a “warm-fuzzy” feeling when we realize the immense love shown to the young man who obviously did wrong. Then, we easily wag our finger at the older brother…acknowledging his lack of mercy. But wait… Let’s not condemn the older brother too quickly. It may be possible we are assuming something about him that isn’t true. If we are not careful in our reading, it could seem that the older brother was jealous and even competitive with his younger brother. This may not be the case. It could be that the older brother simply forgot his own status. He also could have forgotten what was rightfully his which in this circumstance amounted to exponentially more than the younger brother (due to the fact that land couldn’t be spent impulsively like money).

This older sibling was concerned with justice, and he had such a love for his family, that he found it to be a personal attack when his younger brother asked for “his portion” of the wealth. In those days, this was essentially telling your father that you are ready for him to die. This amount of disrespect was unmatched by any other action. Especially to a father that was only able to produce two sons in his adult life (which was an extremely low amount considering the assumed wealth and size of estate of this family). This older brother worked very hard because he knew that most of it was going to be his…or at least he would be the steward of it (assuming it could also stay in the family for the family). While this man looked at this action communally (what was best for the household), his father cared about the individual. Neither one was actually wrong according to ancient thought. This story just helps to remind us that there are times where we need to snap out of our cultural routine and focus on bringing the individual back into the fold.

Don’t be so quick to assign a villain to this story. The father knew that his son was more valuable than what temporary currency he spent. The older brother also knew that everyone would bear the burden of his sibling’s wrong choice. It was just simply taking him longer to process. We also learn by reading in between the lines that God’s grace is disproportionally generous to our transgressions.

In the end, the older brother needed to go on a learning journey too. Just like his brother.

Now, ultimately, this is a parable, but Jesus expertly uses it to instigate a thought process in His disciples. One that would lay the foundation for how the Kingdom would be structured.

-Landon DeCrastos

7 Things in Life That Truly Matter

MatterEvery day, I encounter people who champion their pet causes and, very loudly, declare their belief in something that many would not really even consider as an important issue. This is not to say that they are not important, I just think these things may not be on people’s radar. Recently, I have been reflecting on this concept, and I have realized that many actually put a lot of energy into arguments, protests, and causes that I think really need to be deeply analyzed for their eternal value. I am just one person, and I have opinions like anyone else, but I really believe that many have lost sight of what is truly important. When our priorities are out of focus it affects every aspect of our lives.

Understanding there are many others, today, I wanted to talk about 7 Things in Life That Truly Matter. 

1. Your past matters– Realizing this, and acting on it accordingly will change a person’s future. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat down with a couple or individual and they poured out their pain, anger, and bitterness to me about a particular subject only to realize that the feelings they were having were directly related to a past hurt that was never acknowledged. Many people put up walls, and adopt unhealthy lifestyles, and even develop habits due to this idea. Then, often what happens is a person spends most of their life justifying why the way they are living should be universally accepted when others, who love them, clearly see that they are being eroded by it. Don’t discount the pains of your past. Your past matters, and if not treated appropriately, it will affect your future.

2. Your attitude matters– It is harder to be dragged up a mountain than to be pushed off a cliff. Point being…with any experience you are involved in, if you approach it with a horrible attitude, you are probably going to find a way for the outcome to be horrible as well. How you feel about your church, your spiritual life, your friends, and your family directly correlates with the attitude you approach them with. Change your attitude; change your outcome.

3. Your behavior matters– I am definitely not one of these pastors who cares to micromanage a person’s life. I think there are things that are unhealthy for a person to engage in, but not necessarily a salvation (Heaven/ Hell) issue. With that being said, we have to be very careful when we talk about behavior. There has to be a balance between legalism and the intentional abstaining of certain things. If we are calling ourselves a follower of Jesus, then we have to remember that others are watching us, and many people have issues such as alcoholism, gambling addiction, etc that have torn them away from God or even their family in the past. The question should not be, “will this send me to Hell?” I think it should be, “how can I support my brother or sister that may observe my actions.”

4. Your family/parenting matters– Whether you are a parent or not, it is obvious that parenting matters. I am not talking about a certain parenting model or the newest book that solves all your problems. Parenting (whether biological, guardianship, or surrogate family dynamic) is a vital component in the way that humans understand God, themselves, and the world around them. This concept relates to the first topic discussed here…the past. An absent parent figure can cause one to question whether they are loved, valued, and have a purpose. Family is also included in this…as we raise one another we (hopefully) build a necessary support system for the future. If this is not present…then people began to feel alone, and disconnected.

5. Your relationships matter– I have seen the same quote floating around social media for a long time. The theme of this quote is this…if someone in your life is making you unhappy, you should cut them out of your life. According to the rest of this quote, “life is too shoot to spend it with people that don’t make you happy.” This is absolute trash. Plain and simple. If you are recently divorced and experienced abuse, or infidelity, I could understand where you are coming from…but other than this…the concept is a lie. First, we are not put on this earth to constantly be in a state of happiness. We are called to invest in things that are hard, and spend what little time we have in this world pouring ourselves into others. We can find joy in this…Second, the people around you matter too. Consider the pain of a person who may have lived a life defined by abandonment before you completely cut people out of your life. Granted, for your emotional safety you may need to be careful not to be sucked into the vortex of hurt and confusion…you will be rewarded if you walk through the valley in a healthy way with others.

6. Your faith matters– Whether you believe in God or not…your faith matters. If you believe in yourself as the supreme council or you trust in a guiding force, your values, thought processes, and actions flow from this posture. Grow in this area, and seek others to help you to grow. If you are still seeking what this area looks like for you…find someone who exhibits joy, integrity, generosity and a passion for others, and inquire accordingly.

7. You matter!– Despite what the enemy of your soul is whispering in your ear right at this moment…you matter. You have a purpose in life and even though you do not have the skills and talents you wish you had, God has given you exactly what is needed to be you. If you were missing, the world would not be the same, and everyone around you would feel the burden. Satan wants you to think that no one would care if you disappeared…this is because he is scared about what God has for you.

I know…there are so many more things that truly matter, and I will write on more later. Let’s take a moment today to reflect together on what things are truly important.

-Landon DeCrastos

What am I really doing?

I am a pastor. This means that I have accepted an occupation that has certain demands and responsibilities. I love what I do because I feel that it gives me purpose. This career gives me the opportunity to meet people I would never meet otherwise and also I have learned so much about the way humans think, behave, and interact with one another.

Ultimately, my job as a pastor is to encourage people to become better versions of themselves (looking at it from a foundational perspective) and to equip them with the tools to be able to accomplish this task. It is so fulfilling….and each week I get the opportunity to energize people from the “pulpit” and persuade them to adjust their thought process or look at a subject in a new way.

There is one problem with my job, however, that is fundamentally different than any other occupation. It is all based off of volunteer attendance and support. This is true in other nonprofit situations, but sometimes in the church setting it is hard to sell giving and volunteering when there is no immediate reward or result for the individual.

For a pastor, it can be a tough task to convey the mission and get people excited to act. There is an interesting dynamic that exists with many in a congregation. In larger churches, of let’s say 1000, it is possible that around half of the people look at church as a weekend hobby (or somewhere to be seen). So the difficulty for the pastor (who gives their life to this profession) is to convince these people that what he/she is teaching is something that is important for everyday…and not simply an inspiring word to reflect on.

Pastors must look at the people as missionaries to their school, workplace, and home. The people that support and attend a local church must also look at themselves as commissioned employees to God’s kingdom. This mentality will infuse energy, passion, and efficiency into the church body.

-Landon DeCrastos