3rd October 2017

The Greatest Short Story Ever Written

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:31-32 (NIVUK)

Some have seen in the novels of Charles Dickens various themes based on the New Testament; for example, the novel Great Expectations has been seen as an elaborate retelling of the Biblical parable of the lost son where, in the novel, Pip is the prodigal son. Although Dickens wrote hundreds of short stories and created some of the world’s best known fictional characters, he considered that the parable of the lost son was the greatest short story ever written.

Much has been written about the nuances of this parable. In short, this is a story about a father who had two sons. The younger son demands his inheritance prematurely and subsequently squanders it on wild living, whilst the older son stayed at home. Abandoned by his fair-weather friends, and driven by the fact that he was physically destitute and hungry; the repentant younger son remembers his home life and returns to his father. The father is so overjoyed to see him that he holds a big party for him and kills the fatted calf.

When judged according to common human concepts of justice and fairness, which are related to the idea that a person should receive their due deserts, many would naturally sympathise with the elder son who felt hard done by, since he had continued to work hard on the farm. Perhaps the elder son had hand-reared the fatted calf killed for his brother’s party, or maybe he considered the gifts (the best robe, finger ring and sandals) the father gave to the returned younger son, to be part of his inheritance. But this is a parable about grace and forgiveness in God’s kingdom, not simply about human concepts of justice.

The parable illustrates that forgiveness is costly; the provision of grace to us was costly to God, and forgiveness is often costly to those who forgive others. But Christians can sometimes feel like the elder brother, and compare themselves with others, not being satisfied with God’s grace and goodness that allows them into his kingdom, but wanting to decide who else should be there and have a relationship with God. Like the father in the parable, the Father says to Christians that he is always with us and everything he has is ours—everything that can be inherited through Jesus Christ is ours. We do not have to worry about God’s generosity to others—to those who have come to recognise that they, too, are spiritually destitute and hungry—for there is plenty of room for all in his kingdom.

Prayer
Father, we thank you for the privilege of a relationship with you, and for an eternal inheritance through Jesus Christ that is open to all.
Amen

Study by Eddie Marsh

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About the Author:
Eddie Marsh attends Grace Communion International in Sheffield.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion, Sheffield
Please email for Meeting Place Meeting Time: Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Email: sheffield@gracecom.org.uk