The prodigal son story-lesson, continued.

The older brother had no empathy for his father or younger brother. The father’s response to the dutiful son was with the endearing term of “child,” the Greek techknon translated as “son.” He continued with “this your brother” was lost and found.

A door in the father’s heart had been shut tight towards the son who got away far away from their way of life. Now, his heart was open and his fatherly function was re-ignited to embrace them both. This was a gentle corrective to the elder brother who has harshly stated “This son of yours,” refusing to acknowledge his parent as father or recognize the younger sibling as his brother.

The elder son blames the father from beginning to end: he shouldn’t have given half his assets to the younger son before dying. That cheats the eldest son of accumulating a greater combined asset before the property is divided after the father’s death; that half the assets was squandered, wasted; that the father should have consulted the eldest son (although I confess to not knowing if there was cultural protocol). If the father were to give it all, it would have gone to the eldest. Since it hadn’t, the eldest would have felt shunned with his status disrespected in the family, particularly when his brother was greeted back from bad behaviour with a kiss, clothing, feasting, and making merry. “I have slaved for you.” Greek-doulos. He had no joy in his work, no gratification.

The eldest was jealous of the generosity heaped on his brother. Like the story-lesson of the vineyard owner who said to his workers, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Are you jealous because of my generosity?” Nevertheless, the eldest wanted the authority to tell his father what to do with his own assets. Without that ability, the elder son sulked for years in a slaving of his own making. Work is light when the heart is light. But the elder son’s heart is dark and heavy.

The youngest lived in a Gentile (everyone else) land far from the Jews–he was employed tending unclean pigs. The story mirrors God’s unconditional care for us all, both Jew and Gentile, the “clean” and the “unclean.”

in the parable (story-lesson), it is the father’s care that is either accepted or rejected. Free will is honoured in the youngest’s leaving and returning, as well as the eldest’s cold reaction. There is no harsh response from the father, only tender beckoning. So too does God reach out to us as we are faithful, and when we see the error of our ways and want to come home into God’s presence.

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