Considering Culture (Prodigal Pilates, Part 3)

I just realized the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal sonS is an even bigger jerk than I thought a week ago.

Notice how the presence of the elder brother is confirmed right at the beginning of the parable (Luke 15:11, 12):  “There was a man who had TWO sons . . . So he divided his property between THEM.”   Though the elder brother says nothing, he is as present here as when he explodes in conversation with his father outside the banquet hall at the end of the parable.

What would you say if you knew it was the duty of elder brothers in Middle Eastern society to keep the peace at  home, particularly if there was a problem between a younger sibling and the father?  The elder brother, who would have been the person closest to both the father and the problematic sibling, should have protested violently when his younger brother essentially wished their father dead by asking for his inheritance while the father was still alive.

But the elder brother doesn’t do that.

What’s more, under these circumstances, the elder brother should have refused his own portion of the father’s inheritance so as to honor the patriarch.

But the elder brother doesn’t do that either.

What does this reveal to you about the elder brother’s heart and motive(s)?

(Reference:  Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15  by Kenneth Bailey, Concordia, 1992)

Sherry Boykin

Sherry Boykin, the founder of Faith and Tales, is a storyteller and chronic believer in the power of faith narratives to change lives. She loves to use biblical and personal accounts to help women move beyond their obstacles, glean fresh perspectives on life, and to live differently as a result. Her experiences in urban and suburban ministries, Peruvian Amazon jungle missions, long-term singleness, marriage and family, and men's dorm-living shape her life and provide a colorful backdrop from which to share the Word of God. Sherry is the author of But-Kickers: Growing Your Faith Bigger Than Your But and she has been interviewed for articles in Time, The New York Times, and Better Homes and Gardens.

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