2 September 2015

Luke 15:11-32

“He was lost and is found.” (v. 24)

Psalm: Psalm 80


Today's passage is still about something lost, but this time a son who makes his own decision to return. He knows he has done wrong and so he wants to make a bargain with his Father and it is the terms of that bargain, compared with what finally happens that I want us to concentrate on today.

The son works his strategy out beforehand. We can assume that he expecting that he will not receive a good welcome. Remember this is a group-oriented society, he has not simply damaged himself by his actions. If news of what he has done gets back home he has dragged the self-respect of his family through the mud, or to the pigs. So he creates the bargain he will offer his Father: 'Treat me as one of your mistheos'. That word 'mistheos' which is often translated 'day labourer' is an interesting one. It comes from the word for reward and literally means 'one who labours for a reward'. But this is a time well before Trade Unions and labour laws. The point about being a day labourer is that you would literally be hired for the day, if there was work for you to do, you were hired for one day. If there was no work you were on your own. What is more, wages were low, so if you were hired for the day you would eat, but if there was no work it was quite possible that you would not. What the son is proposing is a relationship whereby, not only will he work for his father, his father will have no responsibility to him beyond paying for a day's work.

But the son never even gets to make his offer. Instead, his father spots him coming when he is still far off, is filled with compassion for the son who has dragged the family name through the mud, and interrupts the carefully planned confession and bargain to plan a party. What a picture of God's love and generosity!

To Ponder

  • 'Let me work for you and I will make no demands at all'. 'Welcome back to the family, let's have a party.' Sit for a moment with these very different responses to the prodigal's return. Without trying to give the doctrinally correct answer, if you were the prodigal child, how would you expect God to respond?
  • Many of us carry central images of God which are drawn from many sources and fundamentally affect how we relate to God and others. What if anything, did the reflection above reveal about yours?

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.