Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. Luke 15:11-12 (NRSV)
Of all the parables that Jesus taught the one that is arguably the most familiar is the parable of the prodigal son. It has become so familiar that it’s easy to believe you have all the details down. Last fall, the Sunday morning adult class viewed the video series “How Lutherans Interpret the Bible” with Dr. Mark Allen Powell. Dr. Powell gave the illustration of asking students, why was the youngest son hungry? The answers surprised him. Most American students said the son was hungry because he wasted his money. Students he taught in St. Petersburg, Russia answered that the son was hungry because of a famine. Finally, students in a class that he taught in Africa answered that the young man was hungry because the community did not share. Interesting how your culture plays a part in your interpretation of a parable. As I read the parable again this week something struck me. The father “divided his property between THEM! In other words both sons received their inheritance from the father. The custom at the time of Jesus was that the older son received a double share, which means when the inheritance was divided up, the older son received two-thirds of the estate while the younger son receive one-third. It caused me to wonder what the older son was complaining about when he tells his father “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.“ (vs. 29) How ungrateful! Yet, I wonder if we as Americans are not like the oldest son? God has blessed us in so many ways. All one needs to do is travel to a developing country to realize how much we really have. Yet, how often are Americans really satisfied with what they have. Instead there is a constant desire to want more and more. We do become slaves to our material desires rather than enjoying the blessings that God has given to us. Take time this week to ponder “Do I need an attitude adjustment?” What is my attitude toward those who are poor? Is it because of their wasteful spending? Or could it be the circumstances in life or even the fact that the community has not helped them? Are you thankful for all the blessings you have or do you tend to forget all that God has given to you? Where is your attitude in need of changing?