Prodigal Son "all I have is thine" Luke 15:31 meaning?


#1

What does Jesus mean by Luke 15:31?

But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine.

Literally, it appears all the son had to do was ask his father for some good thing that he wanted. It appears to me Jesus is repeating His teaching "Ask and it will be given to you, "the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary[God] will [speedily] answer them, etc.

Yet I am perplexed, because God appears not to answer prayers merely if the person really wants something and has the confidence to ask, e.g. Joni Tada hasn’t been healed after 40 years of quadriplegia. Her position makes me wonder whether I ought to give up asking God to heal me, since my problems appear far less than hers. (Of course one can posit reasons why she hasn’t been healed which imply I ought to continue praying for healing: “She hasn’t been healed because she’s saving souls partly because of her predicament” (if she were healed some wouldn’t listen to her), “She hasn’t been healed because she’s Protestant and hasn’t accepted the Eucharist”.)

I’m hoping that you see the point of this question: It’s not enough to say, “Jesus is merely saying the son was already in a state of grace,” because the father is directly answering the son’s objection in verses 27-30: “thou hast killed for him the fatted calf …] yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends”. The answer, “Son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine,” is in response to a claim concerning a material good, something one would like to have but does not need per se. The father appears to be saying, “Just ask for it,” but even beyond that – he appears even to be saying, “Just take it,”* which seems to be consonant with Jesus repeatedly saying that people’s faith is responsible for their healing, as if they themselves materially cooperated with God to bring it about (Matthew 9:29, Luke 8), that God used their belief as like a mechanism to cause it, rather than passively asking and then waiting to see whether God does it, whether it’s ‘in accordance with His will’. Has He not already made His will clear through Jesus? (Luke 5:13)

  • Note that I am not proposing a “name it and claim it” system – the Bible clearly teaches a list of prerequisites that must be met: Seeking first the Kingdom of God, not seeking something to spend it on our passions, ‘better to enter into the Kingdom of God crippled than to be wholly cast into hell’ (it mustn’t be a stumbling block causing us to sin), etc. I’m assuming we are reasonably sure these conditions have all been met, just as the son mentioned a kid rather than a bull.

So what is the correct way to understand this passage? Am I wrong on any point? Happy Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist.


#2

The younger son had already received his share of the inheritance. Everything that was left would go to the older son. There really isn’t any need to attach deep-seated theological meanings to this. Sometimes a statement in the Bible means only what it says on the surface, and nothing more.


#3

This interpretation strikes me as incredibly shallow, superficial, not worthy of parables from the Creator of the Universe. Jesus’ parables are dense and meaningful, concise, such that the only statements that lack a deeper meaning are the “structural” ones that are background to establish the parable. Moreover, I think the structure of this passage itself refutes your interpretation: It is part of the story’s climax, so it would be bizarrely out of place to be merely a “structural detail” of the parable.

This interpretation also fails to directly answer the son’s objection, in part because this son presumably would not receive the farm until his father passes. I find your response lacking so greatly that I am honestly surprised by it.


#4

Whatever. Good luck on your search for ephemeral deep, mystical meanings.


#5

#6

What does God have to give?
Since God is not a storehouse of possessions, the better question is “Who is God, and what does he give us”?

God is being itself. He is a person. He is love.
What he gives us is his very self.
He gives us relationship. Unity with him. The “all” which the father gives to his sons is not mere material goods.
We can call this gift “Son-ship”, in the context of the parable. The elder son has relationship with his father, as does the younger son. There is nothing more that can be asked for. They both have this relationship with their father.

The elder is counting his brother’s worthiness to share in the father’s family, and the father is telling him in effect “what are you whining about when you have everything that matters”.

This parable works well with the laborers in the vineyard: “Are you envious because I am generous?”


#7

The primary meaning of this parable, in the context of Jesus coming to the Jews as the Messiah, is the old Biblical picture of the Jews as the firstborn among all the nations, and righteous Jews being symbolically the elder brothers to the sinful Jews. The firstborn belonged to God. The firstborns of every Jewish family were originally supposed to be that family’s priests. The firstborn is the one who leads his brothers.

But again and again, the Bible warns that the firstborn doesn’t necessarily inherit, and can’t sit on his status. Seth wasn’t the firstborn. Jacob wasn’t the firstborn. David was the youngest of a long line of brothers. But if the firstborn is doing his job, he doesn’t have to worry. It’s okay for one of the other kids to also be loved by God. The prophets paint a picture that when the Messiah comes, all the non-practicing Jews who didn’t know better, and all the Gentiles, will come home to God’s holy mountain, worship God, and receive His blessings too. (Obviously we now know that they were talking about the Second Coming with the more eschatological bits, but certainly lots of us younger brother Gentiles do worship God already.)

In the parable of the prodigal son, the firstborn son is running the farm, managing the business, being his father’s right hand. Everything the father owns is already his, for all practical purposes. The implication is that, if anything, the older son is being a little too careful, not acting his age and his position. He is not a child under his dad’s thumb; at any time he could have used his own authority, as the adult heir, to pick out a critter to eat at a feast with his friends. (And this probably parallels the excessive carefulness of the Pharisees, making sure to avoid breaking the Law by “fencing it around” and treating perfectly lawful things as forbidden.)

If you take it in a more spiritual sense, it could be taken as Jesus urging us to use our God-given abilities to their full extent. We are part of Christ’s Body; we are anointed with chrism and we bear His Name; we are little co-heirs with Him. As in the parable of the talents, He expects us to take some initiative, not just bury our abilities unused. We don’t have to do everything, but we aren’t supposed to wait for His Second Coming before we do anything.

On the other hand, if you expect all prayers to be granted in a way that provides a rose garden and no problems, you want to look at what Jesus went through. Are we greater than Him? Can we really expect less trouble and suffering? Nothing He does for us will be bad for us in the end – but the end is our eternal fate, not an easy life on this earth in the next five minutes.

This life is the shortest part of our real life. Next to a blissful eternal life, all of this world’s suffering and illness is like a hangnail. He will heal us now if it will help us toward eternal life. If it won’t help us, He’s not going to do anything about it.


#8

I think goout and Mintaka both give good answers.

In response to goout, I thought or realized something similar to goout reading the Catechism regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Book of Wisdom regarding the virtues, that what God gives us – union with Himself – can be conceptualized as this right living that makes our lives qualitatively better than the pagans’.

In response to Mintaka, I generally understand and would not object (the Haydock Commentary says much the same), and reading through Job I have been reminded of my sinfulness, and how my suffering is as CS Lewis says ‘a megaphone to arouse a deaf [me]’, as Gary Habermas cites the Bible (in a talk on YouTube) a means of discipline from which I should grow: God may be waiting for me to stop sinning with my body before He will heal it, and that certainly makes sense, as you, Aquinas, Augustine have said about the divine physician giving us that which is good for us, i.e. leading towards eternal life.

However, I think you err in your temporal comparison regarding life before and after death: We cannot say this earthly life is “short” or its suffering of little consequence in comparison to eternity, because we do not have a conception of spacetime after death, a useful definition of eternity to compare with our spacetime: It is not time like now continuing on forever. It seems rather to be a lack of the time we have now, in a fixed way that somehow allows for action. The most we can say is after the philosophy of St. Paul, that this suffering is simply “not worth comparing” to the glory that awaits those who do God’s will.

Ultimately, my question remains, but perhaps I am correct in my understanding that God will heal us (giving us a kid to feast on with our friends) if we do all the right things – and as the Book of Job instructs us, it will be in His time, and we ought not to question why or when, because it’s apparently not our place to know why we suffer, and the very asking of ‘why’/‘when’ underestimates the greatness of God.

I am not saying we ought not to suffer if we do all the right things. I’m saying I think God is telling us He will heal our physical infirmities with a timing that is appropriate to His plan if we live rightly.

(Of course, I’m hopeful for more explanation of this passage, e.g. if someone has additional commentaries to provide from the Church. I also think God ought to enlighten us personally if we meditate and pray well, given how people and even the Catechism talking about having a relationship with God.)


#9

It seems to me your view of God is contractual rather than familial, or family covenant.
You talk about doing all the right things to satisfy God as if we have a contract to satisfy. That’s a problem for just about anybody, because we are flawed human beings.

Even when we fall, we can be sons of God the Father, through life in Jesus Christ. Christ rips that contract up and reconciles us to the Father.

Because we are loved first, and can love others in the same way, that relationship comes alive. No suffering can destroy it.


#10

Luke 12:36 suggests a heavenly banquet, and recalls the parable of the Ten Virgins, which follows this parable in Matthew. The second part of the parable includes a caution that much will be required of the person to whom much is given.

The grand question is do you want, or better yet does God know what responsibility you can handle? In that if all your eathly prayers are answered, what then? Would/could you live up to that which is required?

It is often said God only gives what we can handle. Perhaps being the pinnacle of physical prowess and rich in goods, perhaps this is actually a tougher thing to handle when seeking heaven? For could you “handle” these things as you would then be required?

To say in this sense that perhaps someone like a Trump or Gates are innately “capable” of handling their stations whether they do or not. Perhaps albeit a problem we would all like to have from an earthly standpoint, perhaps you or I literally could not handle such a station with chance for heaven, sort of in a earthly example the large percentage of lottery winners who go broke. Though I think God grants them that “could” habdle it spiritually, or perhaps the losses are part of the lessons needed for that person.

So if you were or the person you cited were cured, physically made powerful, whatever would be required, would it be met? Or inherently squandered?

Idk, just a theory :slight_smile:


#11

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