Saturday, May 13, 2006

The prodigal returns

Tough luck on the fatted calf. (Actually I'm here on dial-up only - my ISP is falling short in the I and S departments.)

Talking about fatted calves recalls that much of the RI (religious instruction) we get when we are young is inappropriate - they should save it until we are old enough to understand it.
As a kid I had serious problems with the parable of the prodigal son. You know the one – a guy has two sons, one of whom gathered up all his wealth and ‘took his journey into a far country and here wasted his substance in riotous living.’ (Luke xv. 13) The sensible son stayed home and helped on the farm.
When the first son’s money runs out, he gets hungry and says to himself, ‘How many of my father’s servants have bread enough and to spare, while I perish with hunger!’ So he goes back home.
Everyone knows what happens: the father says ‘Bring hither the fatted calf and kill it.’ This seemed unfair - and not just for the calf. I could never see what right the prodigal son had to a joyous homecoming. Surely you should reward the loyal sibling, not the idler?

You have to have been a parent of adult children to realise what this is about. Compassion has to be based on need rather than equality. Looking at it as an oldie, I worry about what would have happened if the old man had died? Would the prodigal never have been received back into his family? Would the sensible son have flourished while he, the prodigal, spent the rest of his life outcast and alone?
Fairness has nothing to do with it.

3 comments:

Ed R said...

If the old man had died, the prodigal would have sued the estate and challenged the will, accusing the loyal son of manipulating the records to garner more than his fair share of the estate.

ted said...

...so he would still be an outcast - but a richer one. (As also would be his lawyer!)

Ed R said...

I think he wants to be an outcast, this is his way of being 'his own man'.