More from The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller -- see the previous post for background information on this book and the elder brother.
"Elder brothers' inability to handle suffering arises from the fact that their moral observance is results-oriented. The good life is lived not for delight in good deeds themselves, but as calculated ways to control their environment" (pg. 50). Thus elder brothers often suffer "confusion and rage" because they expect their very moral lifestyles to equal a good life. However life seldom is this way. The elder brother also has a "strong sense of his own superiority" (pg. 53) which often leads to racism, classism and even believing "God favors them because of their particularly true doctrine, ways of worship, and ethical behavior" (pg. 54). Their attitudes to people of "wrong" spiritual beliefs is often hostile: "it becomes easy to justify hate and oppression, all in the name of truth." (pg. 54) On a personal level self righteousness "creates an unforgiving, judgmental spirit."
Elder brothers also often have "joyless, fear-based compliance" (pg. 57). They "may do good to others, but not out of delight in the deeds themselves or for the love of people or the pleasure of God" (pg. 62).
The elder-brother spirit is also known by the "lack of assurance of the father's love. . . . As long as you are trying to earn your salvation by controlling God through goodness, you will never be sure you have been good enough for him. You simply aren't sure God loves and delights in you" (pg. 63).
The author says elder brothers often have dry prayer lives because their "main goal in prayer is to control their environment rather than to delve into an intimate relationship with a God who loves them" (pg. 65).
"Elder brothers have an undercurrent of anger toward life circumstances, hold grudges long and bitterly, look down at people of other races, religions, and lifestyles, experience life as a joyless, crushing drudgery, have little intimacy and joy in their prayer lives, and have a deep insecurity that makes them overly sensitive to criticism and rejection yet fierce and merciless in condemning others" (pg. 70).
Excuse me while I go look in the mirror ... and while I doctor my poor toes.