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Bible Gemz 1045 - It's not about the money (Luke 15:13-17)

June 30, 2019

And He said, A certain man had two sons. 

And the younger of them said to the father, Father give me that part of the inheritance falling to me. And he divided the inheritance between them.

And not many days after, gathering up all things, the younger son went away to a distant country. And there he wasted his property, living dissolutely.

But having spent all his things, a severe famine came throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

And going, he was joined to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

And he longed to fill his stomach from the husks which the pigs ate, but no one gave to him.

But coming to himself he said, How many servants of my father have plenty of loaves, and I am perishing with famine.

Rising up, I will go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I sinned against Heaven and before you,

and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.

And rising up, he came to his father. But he yet being far away, his father saw him and was moved with pity and he ran andfell on his neck and fervently kissed him.

And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you, and no longer am I worthy to be called your son.

But the father said to his slaves, Bring out the best robe and clothe him, and give a ring for his hand and sandals for hisfeet.

And bring the fattened calf, slaughter and let us eat and rejoice;

for this son of mine was dead, and lived again, and was lost, and was found. And they began to be merry.

But the older son was in the field. And having come, as he drew near to the house, he heard music and dances.

And having called one of the children, he inquired what this may be.

And he said to him, Your brother came, and your father killed the fattened calf, because he received him back in health.

But he was angry and did not desire to go in. Then coming out, his father begged him.

But answering, he said to the father, Behold, so many years I serve you, and I have never transgressed a command of you. And you never gave a goat to me, so that I might be merry with my friends.

But when this son of yours came, the one devouring your living with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.

But he said to him, Child, you are always with me, and all of my things are yours.

But to be merry and to rejoice was right, for this brother of yours was dead, and lived again; he was lost and hewas found.

(Luke 15:11-32)

 

 

I have pointed out already when we looked at the shocks in this story (Gemz 1038) that both brothers participated in the rejection of their father. The word [epiballo] is an interesting one: fall to, come to, belong to – in the sense of "is coming to me" or "would come to me". The younger son is asking for his portion early. He has a right to one third of the property / estate and the wealth involved in such. It is clear with this request that he is asking for a pay out from the wealth of the estate. He is not wanting his share of the property now as such. If he were, he would detrimentally affect the working of the estate. As estates are subdivided between the sons, the size of the estate or the farm gets smaller. The farm can no longer be operated on a large scale nor as efficiently. It has to be divided into smaller units. The younger son is not asking for that to happen. The property is no use to him. He doesn’t want to stay and farm it. He wants to get out of there and get as far away from his father's supervision as possible, it seems. And seemingly, as far away as possible from his older brother and the townsfolk he has grown up with. His request amounts to a total rejection of his life to this point. He wants his assets or the value of the property that will fall to him when his father dies, to be given to him now. Of course that will adversely affect the estate. But he doesn’t care. He just wants to get out of there. 

 

Interestingly, the younger son doesn't use the word for inheritance [kleronomia] rather he beats about the bush and says, "my share of the property that falls to me". Kleronomia is used 14 times in the NT and 4 times in Luke's gospel. But in this instance the word used is [ousia]. He doesn’t use [kleronomia]. Ousia means wealth or property. If the son receives the property it comes with responsibilities to the family and to his father and to the wider community. That is seemingly the last thing he wants. He wants the money which is free of responsibility. He wants the money with no strings attached. Everybody in society back then was part of a clan or a "house". They lived together in village clans made up of the collection of all those who were related. All of the houses around a set of certain village streets were all members of the one unit. They were known as the clan or the house of "x". Everything in this chapter of Luke 15 is set in community. This young man doesn’t want community. He wants to kick over the responsibilities and get far from the community. To do that he is willing to break his father's heart and relationship with his wider family. He doesn’t seem to care about their side of the deal, he is only intent on his own feelings, desires and plans. His lostness is deliberate, the sheep's is unintentional and the coin's is too, because the coin is an inanimate object. The woman knows she is at fault. She has lost her coin in her own house. But the younger son intentionally wants to put as many miles between him and his father, as he can. 

 

To get the money he must "gather up all things". We don't know what he did to gather up all things but as Kenneth Bailey says, "Perhaps this was the time the younger son meant to "sell his birthright for a mess of pottage". Remind you of someone? He needed to find some way of converting his inheritance into hard cash. He was cashing up his inheritance / share. I suspect the father himself may have paid him in cash. The father seems to have been wealthy but perhaps it didn’t extend to the sort of money the younger son required, in which case, the boy would have had to sell his portion of the estate. Now that would have been a slap in the face to the family as well. If you need to make a "quick sale" everyone knows the advantage lies with the buyer. So the son would have sold the land if that is what he was selling, for an amount significantly less than its true value. But that would not have worried the boy. He was more intent on leaving than ensuring the family got a good deal. He was indeed the one who had turned his back on the family. 

 

We are not told what the father had to do in order to realize the asset. If he was immensely wealthy he could well have settled the sons share with "spare money" he had. If he couldn't do that, i.e. he had insufficient funds to pay the son out, he would have had to sell off a part of the farm. It was a major request the son was asking. A son only asked for his share when the father was still living because he considered the "old man" incompetent and therefore unable to manage the farm and the estate wisely. If that were the case, he would have wanted to cash up early, so his share was not lost by the foolhardy or incompetent actions of his father. It would have amounted to a vote of no confidence. In this case, it is clearly the younger son who is suspect. He is the one who was wasteful and not responsible; not the father. The text makes it clear that the younger son squandered the family money (and therefore the village's wealth) in "loose living".

 

 

The emphasis is on the fact that it only takes a few days. The younger son takes the money and leaves. It didn’t take the younger son long to get out of there. He took the money and ran. The word [apodemeo] means to go abroad, to travel to a far country. Not only did this boy leave his father and his brother but he left his own community and his own people and culture, and went to a different place. This is a deliberate turning his back on his culture and community. Just as well, I am sure, as if he had stayed close and gone to another village, word would have followed him. Questions would have been asked and the finger pointed at him and scorn heaped upon him. He would have been tainted as untrustworthy. All communities of Palestine would operate in the same way as his did. If the people knew Kezezah had been pronounced over him, he would have been despised in his new community as well. Best to go abroad. The shock of what the younger son did, was not about the money. It was more about the broken relationship in the cultural context in which this story is set. The nature of the society around him is that he has left his close-knit community and gone off on his own. From a Western mind-set we can perhaps cope with the idea of the son going off to seek his fortune amongst strangers. But in the Eastern context, the son has turned his back on his culture and his people.

 

 

[Diaskorpizo] means to "waste", to "squander" or to "scatter" in the same sense in which one might scatter the chaff to the wind when winnowing wheat. To recklessly allow one's wealth to dissipate without effect, without gaining anything. To spend freely. The money he gained was quickly gone. [Asotos] means "loosely", with loose living, some translations have "riotous living" or in debauchery. But there is not the sense of whether his actions were moral or immoral with the word [asotos]. Yes, it does have the sense that the younger son recklessly followed his passions but as to whether those passions were immoral, we are not told. The older brother alleges his younger brother spent the money on prostitutes. We don't know that for a fact. It is only an allegation of the older brother. Whatever the younger brother did, it is clear that the money was spent in a very short time on living it up or living extravagantly. The family are now worse off than before because a significant part of their holdings have been frittered away – or in the words of the Freely Formatted F Version (Gemz 1037) – "he frittered away his fortune, feasting fabulously with faithless and foolish friends. Finally facing famine and fleeced by his fellows in folly . . . " We don't know if he was fleeced by his new friends, but it was likely. They would have encouraged him to spend his money on them. It is all bad. But things get way worse before bringing him to his senses. 

 

Why is it that many of us seem to have to lose everything or go to the bottom of the barrel before we find ourselves. We have to exhaust our own efforts to save ourselves first. Far be it that we should rely on someone else. There seems to be a bent portion in all of us, such that once we "get off the rails", something major has to happen to get us back on them again. Interesting! Keep that in mind. 

 

 

Measure your wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money. Sidney Mohede

 

Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. Goethe

 

The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness in common things. H.W. Beecher

 

Waste your money and you are just out of money. Waste your time and you've lost part of your life. Michael LeBoeuf

 

The poor man is not the man without money, it's the man with no dream! Ian Green

 

 

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