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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Parable of the Unreliable Narrators


Today I’m thinking about Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Son (usually referred to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son – but I prefer to keep the flow of the Lost Things in this parable – Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 4 – 7), Lost Coin (15: 8 – 10), Lost Son (15: 11 - 32), and I am struck by how unreliable both sons are when they describe their circumstances.

The younger son, after blowing through his inheritance, finds himself working on a pig farm. He says, “…here I am dying of hunger.” (15: 17) Now, yes, there was a famine in that country, and times were hard, but he was working, presumably being paid. Considering his pampered life of comfort and ease, I doubt that this callow boy had any previous experience with hunger or work. I read his complaint with a measure of distrust – not outright disbelief, I’m sure he was hungry, and tired, and sore, and dismal. But I doubt his claim of starvation.

And the elder son is not much better. He first claims that he has “slaved” for his father for many years and “never once disobeyed any orders.” (15: 29)  I suspect that his slavery is a whining exaggeration and his claim of perfect obedience is not perfectly true. He then goes on to say that despite all of this his father has “never offered [him] so much as a kid for [him] to celebrate with [his] friends.” (15: 29) And this, too, I disbelieve. The father in this story is prodigal – giving money and resources extravagantly, wastefully even.  I cannot believe that this lavishly giving man, would have never given his son anything.

Perhaps we should call this story the Parable of the Unreliable Narrators…

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