I ain’t your prodigal son

I ain’t your prodigal son August 12, 2018

I ain’t your prodigal son.

I ain’t your older brother.

I’m the servant in the servant’s quarters, cleaning the bathroom floor, setting the table for your party.

Jeremy Page via Unsplash

I was thinking about the prodigal son parable earlier and the typical (often evangelical) presentations of it. The most famous of which is probably Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God.

In his outline, the story is about the father (God) who is himself prodigal, spending everything on the wasteful, sinful younger brother when he returns. The message is about God’s grace, applied liberally in saving sinners. It’s a Presbyterian parable about justification by faith, really.

But what if it’s not — at least not mainly? And what if there is an overlooked but overriding economic dimension to this, as there often is in Jesus’s kingdom parables?

When the son returns, he plans to tell the father that he is no longer fit to be called his son and should be numbered among his servants, his hired hands. This would be a drastic statement to say the least, because the class system in place would have utterly separated sons and servants. But the younger brother’s experience has driven him to the conclusion that he is now no different — and no better — than them.

When we spiritualize the parable to be all about salvation, we rush to the conclusion that NO! He is NOT like one of those lowly servants! He is a SON! And so are WE, by the grace of God, no matter what we’ve done!

But what if we are like those lowly servants? And what if the younger brother’s exaltation by the father is proof that, as the Sermon declares, it is the poor who are in fact blessed, while those the empire economically advantages (read: the older brother) are not?

What if the entire point is that the son represents the servants in his humble realization AND redemptive exaltation?

I want to be where the servants are.

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