Daily Devotion for January 28, 2021

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 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.  A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. (Luke 15:1-2, 11-13)

I like this story, especially since it has a moral value.  Jesus was an expert in telling stories and parables.  He can relate every life situation, telling one or more parables to teach a moral lesson. There are three parables (the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son) in Luke 15, all directly related to the Pharisees and the Scribes, and indirectly to tax collectors and sinners.  The Pharisees and the Scribes were not happy about Jesus’ association with the tax collectors and sinners. So Jesus responded to them in parables.

The parable of the two sons is widely known as the parable of the “prodigal son” with emphasis on the behaviors of the younger son, the lost son (the tax collectors and sinners).  Today scholars think it is the other way around.  The parable is really about the older son (the Pharisees and Scribes) who neglects the poor and sinners.  Because they were the ones who did not go after the lost sheep, search for the lost coin, or welcome the lost son.  Still, there is another perspective that the parable should be called, “the Parable of the Prodigal Father”, and that the focus should not be on money or wasteful spending but love, extravagant love.  All three interpretations are justified by their given moral value.  However, I have come to appreciate the last interpretation more.  Only God would go after the lost, the undeserving (tax collectors and sinners, even the self-righteous—the Pharisees and Scribes) and welcome them with joy and celebration.

The father (God) loved both sons, neither one was good.  Similarly, none of us is perfect but God loves us anyway.  God loves us not because we are good or better than others. God loves us simply because God is love, whether we are good or bad.  So, the father loved the younger son who squandered all his wealth just as much as he loved the older son, and he wanted them both to love each other as he had loved them.  We are called to be like the father in the parable.  The value of the parable is not for us to view people or things purely as good or bad or black or white, causing us to be unable to extend our extravagant love to them.  We are to look for the good in others, think of possibility and positivity, and come together for the celebration of God’s work and glory in our lives.  Let this be a virtue for all of us who know this parable and the moral value in it.