Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Prodigal Son's Brother

You know who is my favorite Biblical character?  You might think it would be Jonathan--the son of King Saul who gives up his birthright and fights against his father to allow David to become the King of the Jews--but it's actually the Prodigal Son's brother.  He is the one who didn't demand his inheritance from his father early.  He's the one who stayed and worked on his father's estate to make it even more successful.  He is the one who didn't squander everything he was given.  And he is the one that after learning that his father had prepared a great feast to celebrate the return of the son who had squandered everything that he was given was offended and asked why his hard work and responsible actions were never celebrated in the same way.

Biblical scholars will tell you that the Prodigal Son's brother is meant to represent the Pharicees of the Jewish religion who believed that strict adherence to the hundreds of laws at the time was the only way to guarantee eternal salvation.  The father represented God and the Prodigal Son was the sinner--and the forgiveness of those transgressions was a main selling point for the authors of the Bible as they tried to recruit people tired of living under the control of the Pharicees and who might want to check out that new "Christianity thing".

In today's society, the Prodigal Son's brother has come to be seen as greedy and heartless--someone who is unwilling to share what he has accumulated with his own brother who is obviously down on his luck--due entirely to not following the same path as his sibling.  I've seen the Parable of the Prodigal Son used as the basis of arguments that "Jesus would be a Liberal" and that continuing to offer assistance to those who choose to act irresponsibly is the "Christian thing to do".  German Chancellor Angel Merkel has even been compared to the Prodigal Son's brother in her treatment of Greece and their debt crisis.

But those who see the parable in that way seemed to have missed a very important element.  In Luke 15:31, the father tells the elder heir "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours."  You see, the father does not take anything away from the son who stayed and worked on the estate to give to the son who wasted all he was given.  And there is no inference that to do so would be "fair" or "Christian" or "God's will". 

Fortunately for us, there are still a lot of "Prodigal Son's brothers" around "working the fields".  But the number of "Prodigals" are always increasing.  And the "fathers" who are willing to forgive--but not to enable--are becoming more and more scarce.

No comments:

Post a Comment