Dad Aways Liked You Best
by Mary White
Scripture reading: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Featured Painting: The Prodigal Son by Rembrandt
We all pretty much know the story of The Prodigal Son. So I'm wondering to whom do you relate in the story, the younger son, the elder son, the father or maybe depending on what stage you are in life, you may at sometime recognize yourself in each one of the characters in the parable.
Jesus was a master storyteller and his stories are metaphors to get a point across to the listeners. The usual way in which today’s story is interpreted is that the son by asking for his inheritance is implying that the father is dead to him, because inheritance is usually only to be given upon someone’s death.
The father represents God who is always there to welcome us home with a lesson thrown in about forgiveness, love and acceptance no matter what.
These Jesus stories are meant to make us feel uncomfortable, to challenge us in some way. To some it isn’t fair for the father to give the inheritance, for it to be squandered, and then he so elaborately welcomes the younger home.
There are a number of issues to consider in this story: there is the father’s behaviour of giving the money to the younger in the first place; and let’s consider the way the younger spent his inheritance “squandered” to the point where there was nothing left to live on….
Once the money is given, is it really the father’s responsibility to oversee how this gift is spent, or does the gift now belong to the younger son?
What does it really matter that he lived in a manner of sex, drugs, and rock and roll?
To say that he squandered the money is a judgement statement. Once the money left the father’s hands, doesn’t it now belong to the younger to do with as he pleases?
I believe that we need to look at the father in this story not as him representing God but rather as this being a father who wants to maintain relationships within the family.
But is the father forgetting that there are two sons?
After hearing the celebration overtaking the fields where the elder son was working, he finds out from one of the workers that his brother has returned, and the elaborate celebration is for the younger.
Now think about it, the family had time to slaughter the fattest calf, contact their friends, prepare the feast, connect with the servers, bring in the band, all before the elder son was made aware of the brother’s return.
This was a father who had two sons and yet it is obvious that along the way he forgot about his older son. The father at some point meets up with the older son who is extremely angry. He claims that the father likes the younger brother more than him. “It’s obvious you prefer him because you gave him this extravagant homecoming after you gave him his inheritance before your death.”
But the father responds appropriately by reminding the elder son that he has it all, his share of the money plus all the land, animals and workers. Then the father reminds him that this after all is your brother who was lost to us and has now been found.
Maybe this parable is about accepting family no matter what they are like.
Whenever I think of the parable of the prodigal son, I think of my younger sister.
For a number of decades, she has been borrowing from her inheritance.
My parents were not wealthy but felt obligated to set aside what they could to leave something for their four children. By this time, I'm sure my younger sister has spent mine, and my brothers’ inheritance.
But she is family, and has had many medical issues that has created situations in her life that has reduced her ability to be employed. And the way my siblings and I have handled this situation is that it’s a non-issue. We are aware of the needs of my sister but we don’t even talk about it.
The money belongs to our parents and it makes them happy to be able to help our sister. We siblings have always told our parents to spend their money and not save it for us. And how they choose to spend it is their choice.
In no way do I feel that there is favouritism because I am sure that if any of us had been in the same situation we could count on family to help us.
Maybe the message we are meant to hear in today’s story is that when the family is focused on the child who is so needy, and most families have someone who needs more attention than the rest, it is also important to remember the ones who do everything right. And, given the older son’s attitude, we may conclude that he is just as lost as his brother was. We don’t have to go far to get lost in possessions, extravagance, or be estranged from family. Make sure they are considered and they feel loved. This is what will maintain good relationships within the family.
This Week’s Spiritual Practice
(from Seasons Fusions: Woodlake Publishing Inc.)
In your thank you jar put a coin in when you experience an act of consideration, such as when someone smiles at you, invites you somewhere, holds a door open for you, invites you to sit down, offers you a meal, and so on.
May the blessings and peace of Christ follow you throughout this week.