And he answering said to [his] father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
Note 8 at Lu 15:29: This older brother's statements reveal that he hadn't served his father for love but rather for the "things" that serving him produced. If relationship with his father had been the real desire of the older brother, then he would have rejoiced to see his father's joy at the return of his son. The repentant prodigal son had learned the vanity of things, and he had come home to a relationship with his father that neither he nor his older brother had known before.
The scribes and Pharisees, like the older brother, had gotten caught up in serving self through their religious actions and were critical of the Lord giving the publicans and sinners what they desired (Lu 15:1-2). However, through repentance, the publicans and sinners were supplying their Father with what He really wanted--relationship. The scribes and Pharisees' dead rituals pleased only themselves. Relationship with the Father was always available to the scribes and Pharisees (Lu 15:31), but they chose the temporal praise of people rather than the relationship with God (Joh 12:43).