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A father’s two sons (1)

And he [Jesus of Nazareth c. AD 30] said, “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that is coming to me.’ So he divided his assets between them. And after not many days, the younger son gathered everything and went on a journey to a distant country, and there he squandered his wealth by living wastefully. And after he had spent everything, there was a severe famine throughout that country, and he began to be in need. And he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to tend pigs. And he was longing to fill his stomach with the carob pods that the pigs were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have an abundance of food, and I am dying here from hunger! I will set out and go to my father and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight! I am no longer worthy to be called your son! Make me like one of your hired workers.’ And he set out and came to his own father. Luke 15: 11-20
By and large, when a son comes of age under Jersey law on his 18th birthday he will have far fewer assets than his father. Often he will have virtually nothing.... But he will be aware of the assets which his father owns and have a fairly good idea of his father’s income.

In bold above is a story – a parallel – told by Jesus to a mixed group of people around AD 30. According to Luke, Jesus’ first century physician-biographer, the following were in the crowd: tax farmers (businessmen who purchased from Rome the right to collect taxes from the people) and sinners (believed to be mainly women generous with their affections and accompanying the tax farmers). Jesus was with these in the crowd.

Luke tells us that Jesus told the parallel because others were in the crowd and were having a moan. These were both Pharisees (devout members of an elite religious and political group) and scribes (custodians of all religious and legal information). What was their moan? “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

‘Nothing influences a man so much as that which he calls his own.’ (C H Spurgeon, preacher and writer, 1834-1892)
Let’s go back to our two 18 year olds under Jersey law who have just attained their majority – just arrived at an age when they are able, for the first time in their lives, to own property. Two sons. One of them (the younger) says to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that is coming to me.’

The elder son doesn’t do that. He seems a good lad. He respects his father. Is this elder son in fact rather like a Pharisee or a scribe – religious, devout and law-abiding? Is that one part (at least) of the parallel?

The father is very, very fair. Did you notice what Jesus said? He divided his assets between them. The father passed on all his assets to both of them – shared equally. The two sons are now wealthy – and the father has given his life assets away. What is the parallel? Is this a picture of a Father God who gives all created things to human beings? Not only that but the abilities we all have – sight, health, life, procreation of children, speech and everything – are received from above…. We receive them, take them, and …

Jesus’ parallel of the two sons shows how they behaved towards their generous father. The younger gathered everything (he took possession of all that the father gave to him) and went on a journey to a distant country (where he would be “free”) and there he squandered his wealth (yes, it was his own to do with as he wished – no judgment from others please) by living wastefully (Luke uses a Greek word that implies dissoluteness and moral laxity, as well as profligacy).

In this distant country it seems that the Minimum Wage he was paid was insufficient to meet his needs. He longed to eat pig-food – but this was prohibited by the Staff Rules. He was not as important (to his employer) as a pig which could be sold at a profit. Surely this parallel of Jesus can’t possibly be implying that life is that tough for employees? Jesus added: no one was giving anything to him.

Our world is not a world of “give”. It’s a world of “take”, a world of “get” and a world of “keep”. I don’t care that it all came from the father….. It’s mine.

‘The genius of modern civilisation, if it is allowed to run its present course to perfection, will bring mankind to the point at which there is everything to live with and nothing to live for.’ (Maurice Roberts)
This son – the younger of two – decides to return and ask his father if he can become an employee. His mind is absolutely clear (he came to himself) - he has sinned against heaven and in the sight of his father. The world has taught him about himself. The world has taught him that his father is very different from others. The father is something else – he is very unlike the 18-year-old who wanted autonomy over all things he could lay hands upon.
Richard Syvret

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