Guest Post: The Parable of the Two Sons

My friend and neighbor has written a beautiful parable that I am pleased to share with you today. David Harding works actively in his ward and neighborhood. His daughter is my daughter’s best friend. As those of you with children know, it is a great blessing to have your offspring fall in with good people who help support them as they grow into themselves.┬áPeriodically, maybe once or twice a year, David writes something that he thinks could be shared beyond his close circle. The topics range, but as often as not they are gospel related. And so I’m introducing David, and one of his writings, to you.


The Parable of the Two Sons

by David Harding

The master of the vineyard was setting out to travel foreign lands for a number of years. He had two sons whom he loved more than anything else. They had recently come-of-age and now had their own budding households. The first son was nervous about the impending absence of his father, and approached his father asking for some extra money in case things went poorly while he was gone. The father had compassion on his son and gave him ten talents to ensure he would have sufficient funds to cover any unforeseen difficulty.

During the first year of the master’s travels there was a bountiful harvest at home. The second son worked hard and made a fair profit. The first son, on the other hand, used the ten talents from his father to buy more land and hire field workers, and thus he made a handsome profit. He was able to earn back the ten talents by the end of the season.

At the beginning of the second season the second son approached his brother and asked if he could likewise use the ten talents to buy more land for himself and hire workers. “Not so,” said the first brother, “or perhaps I will not be able to return the ten talents to father when he returns.” The second season was also prosperous and both brothers fared well in their fields, but the first brother earned far more from his larger land and many workers.

The weather did not cooperate during the third season. Determined to make it, the second son worked himself to exhaustion. He eventually fell ill from exertion and was unable to care for his field and lost his harvest. He returned again to ask his brother for some of their father’s money to pay for medicine. “Not so,” said his brother again, “or perhaps I will not be able to return the ten talents…plus interest.” But in truth, the first son had more than enough profits for interest and had taken to enjoying, what he called, the finer things in life. Desperate, the second son borrowed against his house and land to pay for the medicine. He eventually recovered his health, but with no harvest he was not able to pay back the loan and lost his home and land.

That off-season was cruel to the second son, with no shelter, and having to beg for food to live. At the beginning of the fourth season he returned to his brother to ask if could be hired on to work in his fields. “Not so,” said his brother, “for you are too weak to be worthy of your hire. But take these two shekels,” he continued, “and buy yourself a cloak without so many holes. Remember how merciful I’ve been to you.” And so it went, with the first son living a life of luxury and ease, while his brother lived in destitution.

The master of the vineyard returned after the fourth season. A jubilant first son came unto his father to repay the ten talents, plus interest. He told his father of all that he had amassed while his father was away. The second son then entered the room, with head bowed, dirty, and ribs protruding. His father ran to him. He called for his servants to bring food and water. He placed his own raiment on his second son. The first son was confused at all the attention his brother was getting and waited quietly. He wasn’t sure if it was anger or hurt that he saw in his father’s eyes when the master finally looked back at him.

Eventually his father spoke to him, “Know ye not that I love your brother as much as I love you? Did I not command you to love and care for your brother as yourself?”

8 comments for “Guest Post: The Parable of the Two Sons

  1. A parable for everyone, whether we think we fit the first son, the second son, or the father. Or even the missing mother.

  2. I often think “there but for the grace of God go I.” I realize my hold on my possessions, family, and health is tenuous. What I like about David’s story is the reminder that not only am I blessed to have what I have, I I have an obligation to care for others. See D&C 104: 17-18.

    17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

    18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

  3. D&C 44:4-6
    And many shall be converted, insomuch that ye shall obtain power to organize yourselves according to the laws of man;

    That your enemies may not have power over you; that you may be preserved in all things; that you may be enabled to keep my laws; that every bond may be broken wherewith the enemy seeketh to destroy my people.

    Behold, I say unto you, that ye must visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief, that they may be kept until all things may be done according to my law which ye have received.

    – Become converted
    – Organize ourselves
    – Keep God’s laws
    – Escape the bonds of men & devil
    – Care for poor and needy
    – All things done in the Lord’s way

    Not only does the Lord insist on caring for the poor and need as a part of our own salvation, but I find it interesting that he insists on doing it in his way is to allow us (and those we serve) to escape the bonds of the enemy that would otherwise destroy his people.

    I do not believe those bonds are sickness and poverty, but rather many of the misguided attempts at relief that often place the recipient in perpetual bondage.

  4. Interest….the great evil of the world…. The older brother seems to be more rule based than principle based in his mindset towards his brother. How very unfortunate. This is a nicely written story. Maybe next time you can incorporate that missing mother? hehehe. :)

  5. I like how first son throughout the story seem to actually be justified using another parable his actions. For example he wanted to not just return what he was given but return it with interest. And he didn’t want to share what he had with someone whose lamp was empty.

  6. Thanks Rachel, you really have a way with words and I thank you for your kind ones. I’m glad that you shared that scripture from D&C 104. It happens to be one that was on my mind when crafting the parable.

    It’s fun to see the different reactions to the parable. Some parables have layers of meaning, but I’m afraid this one is pretty straight forward.

    I fear that some of us (like the first brother) will be unpleasantly surprised when we are called to account for our choices in this life (the reunion with the Master of the vineyard). We will be called to account for many things, including how we use our resources (see verse 13 in D&C 104*). It seems that too many of us feel that as long as we pay a full tithe and some fast offerings (the two shekels) then we have fulfilled our moral obligation to the poor. We may feel that we are perfectly justified in spending the rest of our resources on ourselves. The more we are given, the more extravagant we can be. This is antithetical to what we are taught in the scriptures. Besides, can you imagine a Father (or Mother, Dave and Eileen), who loves all of His children equally, would be pleased at the disparity between the fortunate and the less fortunate? Does He not love one as much as the other?

    I’m not trying to pass judgment on anyone. I would just like all of us to consider what it’ll be like at the Judgment Day when we are called to account for how we used our resources, to periodically consider the love that God has for mankind, and to ask ourselves how well we are developing that love in our own hearts.

    For a really good parable on this subject see Christ’s parable of the Goats and the Sheep.

    *Doctrine and Covenants, section 104, verse 13:
    “For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.”

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