The boy then leaves the family and the community — something else unheard of in that culture where mobility was not looked upon as the ultimate goal we often do. He goes to a far place and spends his inheritance in dissolute living. Interesting how Jesus does not spell out exactly what he spent his money on, just that it was undisciplined and careless.
A famine arises and the young man is out of money and out of luck.
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He reaches the very bottom by hiring himself out to feed pigs, an unclean animal by all proper Hebrew standards. But he comes to himself and decides to head back to his father and ask to be taken on as a hired hand. Was this real repentance, a real desire to be sorry for what he had done and make a change? Or was he being manipulative?
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We just know that he finally realized and re-embraced who he was and headed back home. It was as he was on his way, turning around the corner and seeing all the familiar landscapes again, that something incredible happened.
The older man was actively looking for him, maybe peaking behind the curtains every day, maybe many times every day, seeking to see the familiar form of this young man who had turned his back on everything and everyone. Bailey reminds us that older Middle Eastern men do not run anywhere, because to do so would be to show off their ankles, something which is a strict cultural prohibition.
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So to run, and to run through the middle of town, is something that would be totally scandalous and unheard of. Staying back in the house, ready to shake the kid a few times and question how old he was, that would be the least the older man could do. But to run through town, and embrace this wayward, narcissistic kid?
He gets a big party going for the young man, and it is while the party is going on that the older brother shows up; the good brother, the mature one who stayed there and worked hard and kept his nose clean and did what he was told. The loyal son, the one we would want to be like. The one who maybe we think got a raw deal out of all this. How dare you bring him back in and celebrate, the older brother seems to say. But he really has no call to be sanctimonious. He has rejected and shamed his father every bit as much as the wayward boy had done.
The big difference is that the younger brother acknowledged his waywardness. Again, the father would have been justified to be aloof from this impertinence. Once again he goes out to a wayward son.
It will not let him stay aloof. It will not let him keep these young men alienated. It is that way because, when you come right down to it, this is not a story about either of these sons. Some of us see ourselves as the obedient, loyal older son; some of us see that the younger, impulsive, carefree son is more like us.
But the reality is that we are both of them. We all have our moments of being arrogantly loyal, while judgmental of others; we all have our moments of not caring who we hurt as long as we get our needs met. Your subcriptions will sync with your account on this website too. Podcast smart and easy with the app that refuses to compromise. Play later. Manage episode series By The Economist.
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Oh, Grow Up
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