The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother comes from Luke 15:11-32 and is a story we are all familiar with. However, I think it is a story that is often misunderstood, simply because we Christians don’t like to think of ourselves as anything but the hero of any tale.
In this parable, we are like the father, the one who is preemptively forgiving of his youngest son’s immature and destructive behavior. Either that, or we see ourselves in the younger son and liken his story to us becoming Christians: Prior to our conversion, we squander all we have and return to God with nothing. But what if we are, more often than not, like the older son? What if God (the Father in the story) is much more inclusive, merciful, and forgiving than we’d like to admit, and we’re the ones who demand a certain sense of “justice?”
That’s how I’m going to remix this parable in the following . . .
The Parable of the Worldly Brother and the Christian
There was a woman who had two sons. The younger of them said to his mother, “Mom, can I have my inheritance early?” So she divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and went out to see the world, where his money didn’t go as far as he had hoped. After he spent all he had, an economic crash took place throughout that country, and he became unhoused. So he had to live in an encampment and beg for money on the street corner. He would have happily eaten the scraps off the fast-food wrappers gluttonous Americans tossed from their SUVs; but no one gave him anything. He often thought to himself, “How many of my cousins have enough food, but here I am dying of hunger! I better get up and return to my mother, and I will say to her, “Mom, I am so sorry I did you wrong; I’m not even a son to you any longer; treat me like my cousins.” So he set off for home and went to his mother. But while he was still down the street from where she lived, his mother saw him and was filled with empathy and compassion; she ran to him and hugged and kissed him and wept with joy. Then the son said to his mother, “Mom, I have sinned against you; I am no longer good enough to be called your son.” But the mother said to her nephews, “Quickly, bring out a jacket – the best one – and put it on him, and let’s eat and drink; for this son of mine was basically dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found!” And they began to party.
Now her elder son, the good Christian of the family, was working out back; and when he came up to the house for a drink, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the cousins and asked what was going on. The cousin replied, “Your brother has come, and your mom busted out the good wine and those filets we were saving, because she has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became irate and refused to go in the house. His mother came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his mother, “Listen! For all these years I’ve been a good Christian and have been here for you, and I have never disobeyed your commands; yet you have never given me anything more than cheap wine and those crappy burgers you like to make. But when this son of yours came back, who hasn’t been to church in forever and who has probably spent his money on hookers and cocaine, you pull out the filets and good wine and throw a party!” Then the mother said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and literally everything I have is yours. Always. But we had to celebrate and party, because this brother of yours was nearly dead – literally – and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
What’s the take away? I’ll let you decide. Being a parable, it’s open for interpretation, and I’d be curious to hear your take.
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