I spoke at a funeral Monday morning. This is the beginning of the story I told:
A man named Luke gathered stories about Jesus. He wrote,
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
For some reason that seems strange to us, people who felt really uncomfortable in church loved listening to Jesus whenever they could. And the people who felt a little too comfortable in church, enjoying the status it gave them, felt threatened by Jesus.
Luke says Jesus told those grumblers three stories to help them understand why he spent time with the tax collectors and sinners. All of three were about people searching for things that mattered. A shepherd searching for a lost sheep. A poor woman searching for a tenth of her money. And this one.
“There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’
Like saying, “You are dead to me. give my my part of your estate” As rude then as it would be now.
And the dad divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
Just so you know how bad off the son was, the audience Jesus was talking to hated pigs. They avoided them completely. So those grumbling church people would have been saying to themselves, “That kid got what he deserved.”