In the beginning, was relations
The story of the prodigal father/son — we leave that debate for another time — is one of the most famous parables from the Bible. Who is the hero of the story? Many say it’s the youngest son, but many others add that it’s important to see or read the story from the perspective of the father…. Fair enough… But nobody is too keen on the elder brother; he is more or less a villain. Anyway, I don’t want to transform his image or the image of anyone in the parable. Today I am keen to look from another angle— a perspective of relation or relationships.
At the beginning of the parable, how are the relationships in the family? I imagine that both sons had a “good relationship” with the father. What is the meaning of “good” is not so simple too; what is considered “the best” in some cultures may not be considered so in another culture. Some circumstances of their life made the younger son ask for his share of the property. From the point of view of the Jewish culture of that time, this was like considering that the father is dead. Here we are sure of the brokenness of the relation between the father and the younger son.
The younger son returned back home (when is the moment he started calling his father’s house as a home is a good question), after a realization that he had no other option. He didn’t have the slightest hope of restoring the relationship with the father. But his father had quite a different outlook; the relationship and sonship were restored; one of the symbols of this restoration is the father putting on the ring on son’s finger.
The parable ends. What happened to the son who got that unconditional offer from the father? Does he remain in that offer, or does he get into a stage of entitlement? What is that stage of entitlement? It is a state where “I, my rights, privileges, etc” are more important than “my relations”. Or like the elder brother, for whom “his entitlements (his share of the property and “just treatment by the father)” were more important than relations. We can’t speculate about the future of both the sons. But we can think about our own present.
The danger of entitlement looms large in society. And it is all the more true when you have power. Some priests, religious or other missionaries do forget the dimension of relations (with God and with fellow human beings)and get into the state of entitlement. And that may be called clericalism or anything like that, but it is a sad reality. Sadly it is not limited to religious circles; some wonderful leaders become the patrons of entitlements once they receive power, and history has many examples.
It is equally true in the contemporary world, where some relationships are abusive or harmful; sadly it happens with some of the most intimate ones too. We are forced to move away from them. But human beings, as relational beings, need some significant relationships; and I think it is extremely important for a happy life to base on such relations than on our entitlements. The point is not to say that we don’t need any entitlements or achievements, but not to value them over relationships.
NB: this is my 300th article on the platform called medium; thanks to all of you who have supported directly or indirectly… explicitly or implicitly…