I read the parable of the lost son from Luke 15:11-32 and started thinking about entitlements. Here's what was going through my mind. (It's this week's "Opening the Bible" blog entry for i.ucc.) Feel free to join the community and then join the discussion!
Dave Ross – the political commentator who fills in for Charles Osgood occasionally on CBS radio, wrote a performed a catchy tune a few years back. The song, sung to the tune of Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky Heart,” is called something like “Don’t take a cent – from my entitlements.” (Are you singing it now?) It’s about tax code and our desire to keep all our “stuff” and let others foot the tax bill. I looked all over Dave Ross’ website this week and couldn’t find any mention of it – the song must be from too long ago for him to have even in the archives . . .
Entitlements: the right to guaranteed benefits. I guess in a legal sense the word has no negative or positive connotation. Whenever I hear it, however, I get a negative feeling – as if the word was really trying to say “selfishness.”
The people listening to Jesus in the “lost things” parables from Luke 15 may have had a sense of entitlement about what God would do for them. And, as usual, Jesus had something to say on the matter that turned things in a different direction.In the parable of the lost son, (The Prodigal son) I see two sons who feel a sense of entitlement. One feels entitled to his inheritance early so that he can go out and enjoy it. The other feels a sense of entitlement (and jealousy) when the son who took the inheritance early came back and was welcomed with open arms. He did not want his father’s reckless son getting any of what was rightfully his.
The parable is well worn – I think most have heard it many times. And I think we have different reactions to it. Here’s what I’ve been thinking.
The son who took the inheritance early made a mistake. When he came back, he was welcomed with grace and mercy – even though he did not deserve it.The son who stayed with his father acted rude and disrespectful to his father when he refused to greet his brother. The father reminded him that he had lost nothing – and to come and celebrate. The father didn’t shun the son for treating him so harshly (according to the culture, he should have.) He showed him love and caring – even though he didn’t deserve it.
I think Jesus was continuing to teach that God’s mercy is not limited. I think he was continuing to teach that God’s unconditional love and extravagant welcome isn’t something anyone deserves – no one is entitled. Jesus was teaching that mercy and love from God are for everyone – even thought no one is entitled.
What do you think?