Splitting Heirs

Blog 11.8.2021

Splitting Heirs

A few weeks ago, my kids and I went to visit our family in Idaho. It is always a great time; we get to spend time with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course, grandparents. However, this time there was an unintended consequence. Theo started calling me “Uncle Tom”. He has always adopted nicknames for me; for a long time after he first watched Disney’s, The Incredibles, he called me “Bob” after the dad in that movie. To my nieces and nephews, I am their fun uncle Tom, and that’s great because I am a fun uncle; however, to Theo, I am his dad, and being a dad means I am more than just a fun person. Dads are not uncles; dads have boundary-setting roles and are in charge of terrible tasks like getting ready for bed at night. It was difficult for Theo to know which relationship “hat” I was wearing. It can be troublesome to define our earthly relationships, and it can be even more challenging to understand our spiritual relationships.

In our study on the parable in Luke on Wednesday nights, we covered the narrative of the Lost Son. Contained at the end of the parable, there is a struggle illuminated by the older son; he is unaware of how to define his relationship with his father. But, first, let’s look at the words of the masterful parable teller.

Luke 15:25-32
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 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.’ “ 

At first glance, we see a dutiful son who is taking care of the family’s property. But then, we wonder why he is so bitter, what makes the older son upset at the party at his house. I believe his bitterness is partially due to misattributing the wrong relationship titles between his father and him.  

He doesn’t go to address the father directly. Instead, he chooses to talk to a servant, depicting a strain on the roles of the father/son relationship. Then there are the other classifications he uses in his response to his father; words like slaving, orders, and referring to his lost brother as “your son.” These demonstrate that the older son was assuming the role of a second-class citizen. He thought himself to be unworthy within the walls of his own home. The older son was obedient and dutiful because he viewed himself as a servant working on his father’s property. He did not consider himself as a son.  

The father in the parable quickly corrects this problematic thinking by referring to him as, “My son.” And informing him of his rightly secured his place in the family, not because of diligence and performance but because he was a son.

How do we have a wrong assessment of our relationship to God? Are we working because we feel an obligation? Do we work because we are a son and share in the prosperity of the family? To be sure, those who have the Spirit living in them can rightly call God their Father, God adopting them into the family. Additionally, this transformation should change the way we interact and view the Father. Much like Theo realizing there is a difference between the role of an uncle and a dad. There are differences in calling God our Father; expectations might change, but so do the benefits of being a family member. However, that takes a reassessment of our place within the family.  

Galatians 4:6-7 
“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

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