Almost like a barnyard....picture by S. Bennett
In Sunday School at my church, we have been doing a study on the Prodigal Son and his older brother. I'm going to touch on the Prodigal Son today because the view presented by the author is so completely different from what I've understood all my life. I'll have to give you the author's name tomorrow as all my material is in the car and I don't want to stop and go get it, since it's dark and I'm nervous about going outside. That carjacking has caused havoc on my sense of security! Even after a year. The author presents a side of the son that as he says "there's not going to be a warm fuzzy feeling" after we finish.
Imagine the time period, where the father is the patriarch, he rules his household, he makes the final decisions. The children's place is to follow and do as they're told. The wife takes care of the children and servants. Now we have a teenage son, the youngest son. A son who's unhappy with being at home, he wants to see the world, but he really doesn't want to earn his money and then walk across the country, no he wants his inheritance now, while his father is alive. Basically, he's saying, "Father, I don't want you to be alive, I want you dead so I can have my inheritance. But since you're not, I want you to give me what's mine out of the money you need to run this household. I want you to do without so I can go to a foreign land and gamble, do immoral things, not be accountable or committed. I have no respect for you, give it to me now." And his father does.
Imagine the father's peers, their impression of a man giving into a son like this. I bet their conversation revolved around what a "wimp" this man is, how weak a man he's become. Not only did the father give the son what cash he had on hand, but he went and got 50 cents on the dollar for the son's future money he would receive when he died. The father, the household and the older son all would suffer. Yet, the son gleefully accepted what his father gave, even expected it.
Now you have a teenager who goes across the country, being pulled into gambling joints, hostels, buying drinks for the house, for anyone and everyone. Buys jewelry for the ladies and prostitutes he sees. His friends are probably older and scam artists manipulating and taking his money. Until finally he hits bottom. He's broke, all of his so call friends have deserted him. He's alone in a foreign country. Miles away from home. No money to buy food and a place to stay. Yet he asks a man he met when he was flush with cash to let him be a servant to earn his keep. He begs and pleads, maybe saying, "Hey when I had money, I bought you drinks and paid for your food, how about giving me a job."
What does this "friend" do but look at this Jewish man and give him a job taking care of swine. A Jewish man to go out and touch pork, work in a pig sty. How humiliating! How hungry he was and how tempting to reach down and eat from the slop for the pigs.
I know as a child when hearing about the Prodigal Son, the focus was more on the return rather than the journey. I don't remember ever thinking how disrespectful this had been to the father. I just concluded the father was rich and he went on with his life. I had never thought about how difficult it would be, that he gave away all he could change into money. I had never really thought about how this would hurt the father, that the son was basically saying he didn't love his father! It certainly opened my eyes to a different viewpoint.