Three Kinds of Servants

In my reading this morning, I noticed an oddity in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It began with seeing that the older brother in effects identifies himself as his father’s slave.

When the younger brother came to his senses, and says that he should be treated as one of his fathers “hired servants” (misthios). This is what he says to himself (Luke 15:19), but when he gets back to his father, he is unable to even get to that part of his prepared speech.

When the older brother comes home and hears the sound of music and dancing, he calls one of the servants (pais), which can be translated as child, or servant, or attendant (Luke 15:26). When his father comes out to plead with him, the son complained that he had worked for many years as a slave for his father (douleuo), and that he didn’t think it was right (Luke 15:29).

The younger son offered himself as a servant, and thought it was better than he deserved. His older brother labored as a slave in bondage, and thought it was far worse than he deserved. But their father treats them both as sons throughout.