Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.” …
We all enter the world selfish and demanding. You may not remember your own infancy, but if you are a parent or have ever cared for a baby, even for a few hours, you know that young children think only of their own needs. Of course, we don’t blame babies for crying when they are hungry or tired or uncomfortable. We don’t expect newborns to help out around the house or pick up after themselves. They are too young. They haven’t grown up into the maturity that should bring compassion for others and a sense of responsibility for the people and things around us. As we develop, learn and grow, we come to understand that we not only need other people, but that they also need us and that it’s good to share, give, serve and love. Sadly, there also remains in each of us embers of those selfish desires, and sometimes they ignite again into fires of greedy, self-centeredness.
That is the younger son’s disease: at his core, the young man at the center of Jesus’ parable has put himself at the center of life with everything and everyone else orbiting around his wants and wishes. So self-focused is this young man that he doesn’t hesitate to tell his father, in essence, “Drop dead and give me what I have coming.” Maybe he doesn’t really think through his request that profoundly. All he seems concerned with is getting his hands on his share of his estate and doing whatever he desires with his property, that is with the property that has been, up until his outrageous request, his father’s hard-earned wealth. These opening lines to Jesus’ best-known parable were meant to cause immediate indignation in his listeners’ hearts, because they would understand, as we also should, just how offensively self-centered the young man is.
Jesus knows how to strike chords in our hearts, some beautiful and stirring, others shrill and jarring. It may hurt, but we need to hear the moral and spiritual dissonance of the young man’s request and to recognize how often we also play self-centered tunes. I want… I need… I think… If I were in charge… Those notes rarely harmonize with love, compassion and service. May we grow in maturity, putting aside selfish desires and greedy cravings, choosing instead to care well for others, just as Jesus cares for us.
Good Father, thank You for loving me more than I deserve. Please forgive all my self-centered words and actions. Teach me humility and compassion for others, so I can become more like Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian