- He does bad stuff.
- He realises how low he is.
- He's saved in the end.
- God is lovely.
It's the older brother interests me. The boring, sanctimonious, do-gooding prig that he is.
It's not enough that his little brother has been down with the piggies, wishing he could eat the pea-pods. Not enough that he's trailed back, tail between his legs. Any normal older sibling, seeing younger sis/bro grovelling back, would have enjoyed things as they were. Nothing like seeing the baby of the family having to admit they've done something wrong. But you wouldn't want them pushed beyond humiliation.
But oh, no. This wally has to push it too far. Making up the stuff with prostitutes, for starters. Reckless living, sure, but who mentioned the prostitutes until the older brother dragged them into it? He's just trying to make things worse. He could have had a whole lifetime of looking smug, doing the "accepting-but-still-superior" look, making it quite clear that he was, fundamentally, charitable but in the right. And he blows it by acting like a Daily Mail sub-editor.
I feel there's a lesson in this parable for all of us. If God gives you the chance to take the moral high ground, don't bomb the village in the valley. It makes you look like a real prawn.