19 Dec

The Tale of the Prodigal Son – Revisited

In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells a story commonly known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When we dig deeper, we find there’s an interesting angle to the to the story that many scholars and pastors don’t focus on. Understandable, because it’s easy, and still meaningful, to take out what’s on the surface; A farmer has two sons. One of the son’s asks for his inheritance early so he can enjoy it while he’s young enough to. He takes the inheritance, squanders it on booze and loose women, and crawls back home having decided to ask his dad to hire him as a menial worker. As the son nears the house, the dad sees him in the distance and takes off running to his long-lost son. His dad tells the servants to prepare a huge feast in celebration.

The interesting angle is: what happened to the son who was there the whole time? When the other son heard the music and celebration and all that was going on, all we’re told is that he was angry with his dad and refused to go in. He told his dad something along the lines of, “I’ve been with you all along, and yet, you’ve never done anything even remotely close to this for me!”

It’s easy to see where the son who’s stayed with his dad got angry, but we get no closure there. What happened? Did the son come to his senses and realize he was being a selfish jerk? What if he wasn’t being a selfish jerk? What if he was justified that his father never celebrated having a “bird in the hand instead of two in the bush?” I was told that a lot growing up: “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.” It’s a southern saying meaning be glad with what you have. It’s basically another absolutely worthless platitude that’s along the lines of, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

So what can we take away from reading the story from the other son’s angle? What’s your take on it? I’m thoroughly interested in what you think.

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