by: FCC Staff
Entitlement. It can be a real struggle when coming from a place of perceived privilege. Our proverb tells us that a wise servant will be given an inheritance, where a son who is foolish will lose his “entitlement,” his inheritance.
Jesus taught this truth in many ways. One of the most profound is his parable of two brothers. Most often when we think of this teaching we refer to it as the “parable of the prodigal son.” We love the idea of a son welcomed back after falling into error. It’s grace on display, grace we so desperately need.
But what is the context of this parable? Who was Jesus teaching? “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2) After this statement from the Pharisees, Jesus teaches 5 parables. One about a lost sheep and a shepherd who will do what it takes to find her. (v3-7) One about a lost coin and a woman who will do what it takes to find it. (v8-10) One about two brothers, and a father who accepts them both, both the brother who wanders off, and the one who stays put (v11-32)
There are three key ideas in this parable of two sons. One is the prodigal son coming to his senses, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!”(v17) The son realizes that even servants in his father’s house are better off than he is. He wisely chooses to come home, in his mind, not as a son, but as a servant.
The second idea is the response of the father, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
The father accepts him back as a son. The son’s poor behavior didn’t change the loving, generous nature of his father, nor his desire to live a blessed and happy life with his son.
The third is the older bother’s response, “ But he was angry and refused to go in.”(v28) His explanation to his father was “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”(v29-30)
The son, who had come back as a servant, was getting what the bother who stayed felt HE was entitled to! What’s more, the servants of the household were all celebrating and sharing the joy of the father and his son. What did the older son want? “ give me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.”
Not to celebrate with his father. He wanted something for him, and his friends. He wanted a reward for being a “good boy” apart from the father. He felt entitled to his father’s things, apart from his father! The same attitude his younger brother had, but has now turned away from. But in spite, the older brother turns away, and loses out on his share, his true inheritance. “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” He wants stuff, his father says, all that is mine, peace, joy, love, a home, a family, all the things that matter… they are ALL yours, always have been.
Then, moving into chapter 16 the fourth parable is real thinker: Jesus tells a parable of a manager who knows he is about to be fired from his job. Fearing financial ruin, he comes up with a plan: Before I’m gone, I’ll forgive half the debts of everyone who owes my master money, that way when I have no job, they’ll remember what I did for them and take care of me. He’s giving away forgiveness, that is not even his to really give!
Jesus wraps up this teaching like this: “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings."
"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:8-13)
If a shepherd loses a sheep, will he not go find it? If a woman loses money will she not search her house to find it? If a son returns home, to the joy of the father, should his brother not share in that joy? If you’ve come across an opportunity for dishonest gain, wouldn’t it be wise to at least share it with others as a hedge against future disaster?
Let’s see how the Pharisees respond to these first four parables, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” They were acting like foolish, entitled sons. Like the older bother to the prodigal son, they were focused on the “stuff” not on the loving relationship.
There are two brief teachings on how God views justice before Jesus then teaches his 5th parable to the Pharisees. “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores.”(v19-20) from an entitled point of view, the rich man is the son, the family member, the blessed one, receiving good things, for being a “good boy.” Wise in the eyes of the world. The poor man, must be full of sin, since he is poor, diseased, unclean. An outsider, a servant, a fool in the eyes of the world.
Jesus says, turns out, that’s not the case. The poor man is taken to heaven, to Abraham’s side, where the rich man is suffering in hell. He begs Abraham to send Lazarus to comfort him, just one drop of water, please! No can do. Well, send Lazarus, the poor man to tell my brothers so they don’t end up here with me!
“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”(v29-30)
This is where parable and reality come to a striking intersection. Jesus had literally raised a man, named Lazarus, from the dead in chapter 7 of Luke’s gospel. But here are the Pharisees, still not believing. Jesus himself would rise from the dead, but many of these same Pharisees would still refuse to believe.
Paul sums up the truth of this proverb, and Jesus’ wisdom and redemptive ministry this way, “I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles[b] of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Gal 4:1-7)
So today, let’s act as wise servants of God, so that we may receive our inheritance as sons of God. When we feel entitled, and refuse to be generous in all things that God has given us, we become like unwise sons, who lose not only their inheritance, but their identity as sons of the Father.
Prayer for Today
Father, help me to be generous with all you have given me. Help me to be forgiving and kind, and to rejoice when others receive blessings and forgiveness from you. Help me to we a wise servant in your kingdom, so I may receive my inheritance with open arms from you: joy, peace, love and life everlasting. Send you Holy Spirit to correct me when I stray into an attitude of entitlement or privilege. Bless me to be a blessing, in Jesus name, Amen.