“There was a man who had two sons. And the younger said to his father, “Father, give me what will be mine.”
Or more properly to the NSRV “give me the share of the property that will belong to me.”
So it isn’t in the story, but the younger son had to sell the property, to have the money to go travel and live in a far country. This is a point that Kenneth Bailey makes in his book, and it is interesting to think about. Who bought it? Do the father and older brother now have a new neighbor? Did the older brother find the resources to buy out the younger son and keep the land “in the family”? Did that cause a strain on their resources? Or did they have enough they could give him cash as his share? This is not a poor family — Jesus is always saying that the rich will have a hard time getting in the Kingdom of God. Is that a factor? I do think, by the way, that there are clear economic factors and meanings in all three stories of Luke 15. That’s for another day! These are the sorts of questions that arise when I go slow in bible study and take my time.
A few days later, the younger son left. Well — after causing all that trouble no doubt he had to leave! Can you image a child coming to you and saying “give me what will be mine” and then continues to live in the basement? No way!
There is also something “mythic” about the younger son, I mean beyond that this is a story/parable. Younger sons often go on adventures or quests because older sons have responsibilities. Younger sons in scripture often push or shove old brothers out of the picture and take more than their share. Younger sons have “trickster” qualities which is another mythic quality. And right off, the younger son in this parable is displaying all of this. Jesus is telling this (the third story in a row) to a group of Pharisees and scribes who where grumbling about Jesus welcoming and eating with sinners. So far, perhaps, they would have nodded in understanding, right? A father has two sons and the younger is the trouble-maker. That’s the sort of thing that could happen. That’s a familiar story. What’s going to happen next, they might have wondered.
As my mother downsizes preparing to move, I’ve inherited so to speak a couple things that would have normally been mine in the future. It’s a strange feeling. I cherish these antiques but wish that these circumstances had not arisen. For me, there’s a feeling of “not ready”. And even though these items were pressed upon me, given of choice and necessity, there’s still a strange guilt.
So there’s no excusing the younger son really — he asked for something he should not have, he feels no guilt, he takes it and leaves. He might have mythic qualities, but he’s in for a downfall, yes?
What’s going to happen next?