The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.
– Luke 15:12
I wonder how the Father would have responded to this request? To ask for your share of the estate is to ask for your inheritance. In essence, the younger son is saying to his Father: I wish you were dead.
That cannot be an easy thing to hear, especially not when we as modern day readers have the luxury of knowing the Father’s joy and celebration of his son later on. This man loves his sons and here his younger son is asking for his inheritance.
Because this is the younger son and we know the man has two sons, the Jewish law of Deuteronomy 21:17 dictates that the eldest son gets a double portion. This means the younger son is claiming a third of all his Father has.
And the Father gives it to him.
My next observation is pure conjecture, but this part of the story is so matter of fact that I can’t help but imagine that whilst feeling absolutely devastated, the father simply goes about the process of dividing the estate without creating much of a fuss. He doesn’t curse his son, but grants his request and divides up the land between them. Even in this act, he would have shown his son his love for him.
The word for ‘divided’ can also mean to cut up, to tear asunder. More than this, the dividing process wasn’t simply cutting off an excess to give the younger son, but would have also included giving the older son his inheritance too. “He divided his estate between them”. This will be important later on as from the very start, this parable is about a man with two sons – the older one is not an additional character at the end, but is implicit throughout.
There are commentaries which refer to the sentiment expressed by the younger son as ‘impatience’; impatience with family life and wanting to make his own way for himself.
This is a natural thing for people to feel as they grow up. It’s certainly something I’ve experienced to an extent. However, reflecting on this now I know that I wouldn’t wish for my Dad to die at all – even if it did mean I could have all his stuff!
I guess my reflection for today as I ponder this request of the younger son is simply this. I love my Dad, and his support means the world to me. So thank you, Dad.
(Mum, I love you too but you’re not in the parable!)