Luke 15 and “prodigal”

…and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

The angry older brother says he spent it on prostitutes, but he is unlikely to be a fair judge of the matter, plus how would he know? Some translations say expensive living. Some say “wild” — “wild living” — that seems different. Prodigal means lavish — a prodigious waste is a big one, and so on. In general, it seems the implication is the younger son went to a far land and lived large there — he wasn’t a desert monk. Up until now, I’ve pictured him like a 1920s gangster, with a cool car, a beautiful dame, a flask in his pocket, a fine suit. I don’t know why I have that image.

I think it is safe to say that the Pharisees and scribes have been grumbling about Jesus eating with sinners (Luke 15 verse 2) and that’s the prompt for these three parables of Jesus about “lost” things. The younger son being identified with the sinners and tax collectors that Jesus is eating with is pretty clear, don’t you think? And for the record, I guess I visualize the tax collectors as sort of out of the 1920s as well, the guy who sells you insurance from the mob, that you have to buy otherwise your store will catch on fire. Wasn’t that a thing that happened?

So we’ve found ourselves a sinner in this prodigal son.

Is being a wasteful spender, or living wild, or immoral living the only source of sin? We’ll have to see. For now in this section of the story, the older brother is silent, the father is himself generously giving to the younger son — so generously the son has the means to leave home, go far away, and squander is property. Perhaps the father, too, was prodigal?


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