Sunday, June 3, 2007

the prodigal's father

I believe the passage in Luke 15:11-32 is misnamed. The story is about the father, not the son. Jesus told the parable so that the listeners, mostly adults, could understand the Father’s heart. In fact, I think to understand the parable you really need to be a father, or at least a parent.

There is nothing in the story to help us better understand a son. A kid wants his own way and wants to escape his hometown. He then blows his money and ends up broke, hungry to the point of coveting pig slop. The son finally realizes that he would be better off, that it would be a big step up, if he were one of his dad’s servants. So the kid moves back home.

What’s so surprising about that? Where’s the revelation there?

No surprise. No revelation. The parable is about the father, not the son. Forget about the son or you’ll miss the whole point.

While I’m venting on this topic, we need to remember that this is a fictional account told to illustrate a point. It is a story originating with Jesus, not Disney. We often assume a Hollywood-style, they-all-lived-happily-ever-after type ending. Is there any evidence that the son’s issues with authority, self-will, sexual addiction, self-discipline, or whatever, were resolved? Is there an implication that the son and father had no future, on-going struggles?

No, because the story is not really about the son. It is about the father’s heart.

This is not original with me. I’ve been mulling this over since I heard a talk show on the radio a couple of months ago. When real world prodigals return home it often the beginning of a new round of struggles and conflicts. Are we to have the heart of prodigal’s father? Sure, but often the dealings, the pain, the hurts, are even worse after the return. The time away from the father just delayed the resolution of problems. The return home in no way indicates resolution achieved.

We need to read the word of God so that we can stand on the sure promises of God rather than assuming they reflect the fantasies of Hollywood. I know that there have been many times in my life when I have been disappointed because reality turned out not to be the Hollywood storyline I thought was supposed to happen.

The funny thing is, I often blamed God and not Disney.

Be blessed,
RB

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