Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Luke 15:11-16

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, but no one gave him anything.

The Pharisees tried to discredit Jesus for using his association with sinners. If Jesus was comfortable with "Satan's people" while accusing the "people of God" of unrighteousness, he was certainly working with Satan rather than God. In this final of three parables, Jesus continues to respond to their charge by by telling what brings God true joy and glory.

The story begins with a father. In these days the father commanded respect and honor. But this youngest son shows him none. Asking for his inheritance early is akin to saying he wished his father were dead. He cares not for his father's guidance and wisdom; all he wants is his share of the possessions. Culturally, the father's response should be a public beating and disinheritance. But this father does not protect his honor. He divides his wealth between the two. The youngest son quickly liquidates his assets. Like those who trade in futures today, in the time of Jesus the youngest son would be able to sell his portion of the property at a discounted price. The purchaser would receive the property when the father died.

We call this man the "prodigal son". The word prodigal means "spendthrift", someone loose and free with their money. The son squanders his estate on parties and women. The word "loose" in Greek means he lived in a "wild, reckless, abandoned" manner. As usually occurs, he felt free for a time in his self-indulgence. But eventually the shock of the consequences hits us like thrill seekers flying through the air who suddenly realize that the bungee cord is not attached.

Becoming destitute was his doing, but the famine was out of his control. We know little of famine in America. People in famine situations have no access to any food. They eat any plant they can find, gnaw on shoe leather, even turn to cannibalism. In the midst of these circumstances to say the younger son "found himself in need" is an understatement.

He clings to an unclean Gentile in an unclean country and is sent to do the most unclean of tasks - feeding the pigs. He is not even paid for the job. He is not allowed to even eat the trash fed to teh swine.

We leave him here broken, in the mud, starving and surrounded by filth. The story continues tomorrow. Until then, consider how many times we stubbornly sit in the pigpens of our own making, refusing in arrogance to return to the Father.

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