This story was written by John Pattison as a children’s sermon at his church. (johnepattison.com/parable-of-the-two-brothers/). It is based on a story he came across, though he could not find the name of the original author. This version may be written for children, but the moral lesson it teaches is timeless and ageless.
Once upon a time there were two brothers who were the best of friends. Born just a couple years apart, they grew up doing everything together side by side.
Side by side, they explored the hills and streams and the woods that surrounded their parents’ farm. Side by side, they ate breakfast in the morning. Side by side, they brushed their teeth before bed at night.
They played sports, did their homework, helped with chores, played pranks on their parents - and they did it all side by side. The neighbors said, “Those two boys are joined at the hip.” They were right, the brothers couldn’t be separated.
After high school, the brothers decided that they wanted to be farmers like their parents. They saved up their money and they bought two farms. And, those farms were - you guessed it - side by side.
The farms were in a beautiful valley. It had lots of grass where the horses and cows could graze. And, it had rich, healthy soil where good crops would grow. There was even a pretty little creek that ran between the two farms.
For years the brothers farmed next to each other. They helped each other. They shared tools and machines. They even shared some of the food that they grew.
Many nights during the summer and early fall, after a hard day’s work, the two brothers would meet at the creek to talk and swim and fish and watch the sun set over the valley. They did this side by side, too.
And the neighbors said, “Those two brothers are thick as hair on a dog,” which was another way of saying that the brothers couldn’t be separated. But, this time the neighbors were wrong.
The brothers got into a quarrel. It was their first serious conflict ever. It started out as a little misunderstanding, but it grew into a big argument. The older brother was certain that the whole thing was the younger brother’s fault. The younger brother was just as certain that the whole thing was the older brother’s fault. They started yelling and said some hurtful things to each other.
Then, they stopped talking altogether!
The longer the silence, the angrier both brothers got. They stopped helping each other; they stopped sharing tools; they didn’t go near the creek where they used to meet to talk and fish.
Then one morning, when the younger brother was finishing his breakfast and grumbling crossly to himself, there was a knock on his door. When he opened it, he found a man carrying a toolbox. The man said, “I am a carpenter. I’m looking for a few days’ work while I am in the area. Do you have a few small jobs I can help you with?”
The younger brother had a flash of inspiration. He said, “As a matter of fact, I do have a job for you.” He pointed across the creek. “Do you see that farm? That farm belongs to my older brother. We’re quarreling, and it’s his fault and I’m furious at him. I want you to use the pile of lumber by my barn to build a fence along the creek. I want it to be eight-feet high — no twenty-feet high—I don’t want to see his property or his face ever again!”
The carpenter thought for a moment, and then he said, “I think I understand the situation. I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”
The younger brother had to go into town for the whole day. But before he left, he helped the carpenter get the materials ready. Down to the side of the creek they hauled lumber, nails, and screws, and tools of all kinds.
As the younger brother’s car disappeared from sight, the carpenter got busy. He worked hard. As he measured, sawed, and nailed, he thought a lot about the two brothers. The day was hot, but the carpenter was skilled, and he did a fine job.
Just as the sun was setting over the valley, the carpenter finished his project. He was loading his tools into the truck when the younger brother returned home. The younger brother was eager to see the fence he had asked for. But, when he got out of the car, his jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe his eyes. There was no fence there at all!
Instead, there was a bridge.
It was a simple bridge, but it was sturdy and lovely to look at. It stretched from one side of the creek to the other.
But, what surprised him most of all was the sight of his older brother coming across the bridge, his arms outstretched. The older brother said, “What a fine brother you are to build this bridge! Thank you!”
The brothers met in the middle. First, they shook hands awkwardly. Then then got down to business and hugged each other and apologized to one another for all the hurtful things they had said and done.
When the brothers turned to thank the carpenter, they saw he was hoisting his last toolbox into his truck. “No wait!” said the younger brother. “Stay a few more days, I have lots of other projects for you.” The carpenter smiled and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. “I’d love to stay on,” he said, “but I have to go. I have many more bridges to build.”
As the brothers watched the carpenter drive away, they promised one another that the next time they had an argument they would meet in the middle of that bridge and work it out.
They would stand there and work it out — side by side.
Jesus was a carpenter, a trade he learned from his earthly father, Joseph. He wants us to be like “carpenters”— to build bridges that make it possible to mend broken relationships and to always love one another.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13:34 NLT
But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. Mark 11:25 NLT
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 NLT