What have we done with our inheritance?

A man had two sons.

This is the how the Lord begins one of the greatest parables of the New Testament: that of the prodigal (lost) and dutiful son. But, just before telling this to His audience, the Pharisees, the last verses of chapter 14  warn us of something I have always considered the worst thing that could be said of any Christian—that we start out well with God and end up being quite useless. With regards to what it means to be a disciple, Jesus says, salt is a useful thing. Yet, if the salt itself loses it’s taste, it’s not good enough for either the soil or the manure heap.

The Lord doesn’t usually precede a parable with a parable, but in the case of the prodigal, He precedes it with two: one for men and one for women, illustrating to both in ways they would understand in their time and culture, the extent to which the Father in Heaven is willing to go to find a lost soul.

He directs the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7) to the men, to those Pharisees who didn’t like the idea of Jesus eating and drinking with sinners, calling upon the Scriptures they knew from Ezekiel and Isaiah which proclaimed that God would go after His sheep even when the leaders had failed. Here, Jesus summarizes His whole ministry. The Pharisees may not rejoice in one repentant sinner, but all of Heaven does, for when he is found Jesus takes him upon His shoulders and brings friends and neighbors together to rejoice. The repentant one is better than the 99 who say they are virtuous and have no need of forgiveness.

Now for the lost drachma and the women. (vs.8-10) In those days the crown of a woman was her dowry, her ‘bride price’ to her husband from which she found all her worth. The drachmas were often placed in a crown upon her head, so that when she lost one, she lost all of her joy, hence why she would light the lamp, sweep out the house and thoroughly search until she found it. She too would hold a festival of thanks calling together her friends and neighbors. The Lord let the women too know in language they understood, the immeasurable worth of one repentant sinner to God.

Finally, the parable of the prodigal and the man with the two sons. There are only two types of children in the Scriptures: those like King David who accept God’s visitation upon them and ask for God’s mercy and those who, like Pharaoh, rejected the plea of Moses on behalf of God.

The younger son, who represents the lay people of the church today, demands his share of the estate and so the father divides the property. To the older son he leaves the house and the farm; he was supposed to be the dependable one. To the younger one he gives the jewels and the money and sends him out into the world. It was a test for him, a test to see how he would look after money and the economy, for the Lord tells us if we cannot be trusted handling ‘little things’, earthly riches, then how will you be trusted with heavenly riches?

Sadly, he fails completely. In essence the salt had lost it’s taste. To the tax collectors and the sinners Jesus says you destroyed the wealth you have been given, thrown the inheritance back in His face, lived in the world any way you liked and destroyed the kingdom of God in the process as well.

The older son– is like the scribes and Pharisees– and speaks today to the priests, the religious and all their ranks. It was to these He left the house and vineyard, because they were supposed to be the dependable ones. God gave them everything. He too failed completely.

The lay people are to take our inheritance (finances and family) and consecrate the world, the religious are to take care of the kingdom of God.

None of us has any right to any of it but,

when the kindness and love of God our savior for mankind was revealed, it was not because He was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except His own compassion that He saved us {…}

Titus 3:4-5

We have been given a great inheritance, been tested and tried. None of us should or could be anything of what we are except by the compassion and mercy of God. Some of us are young and some of us are old..old enough to know what a great responsibility we have been given, old enough not to throw it back in God’s face, old enough to know better, old enough that we should be an example to all of repentance and God’s forgiveness; not still wandering in the world and by our witness living in famine looking for work among the pigs.

As the synod approaches, I think of this: one day all of us will have to answer this question according to our given vocation.

A man had two sons.

What have we done with our inheritance?

+PAX

  • meditation adapted from a Bible lesson on the Gospel of Luke, by Frances Hogan

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