What's wrong with this picture? That's the first question I urge my students to ask of a parable like the one we find in today's Gospel. Parables are the biblical version of a bait and switch. They introduce you to a scene that seems familiar enough. In this case, a dissolute younger sibling, a jealous older sibling, and a ridiculously generous parent. They invite you into the narrative, so that you begin to identify with the characters, and you think you know where the story is going. As Luke presents this parable, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and Scribes who are grumbling about whom Jesus eats with-in this case, tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1-2). We have to hear the parable through the first century ears of the narrative audience (these Pharisees and Scribes) and Luke's authorial audience (those he expected would hear his gospel). What's wrong with this picture for them? First, for the son to ask his father for his inheritance is tantamount to saying, "I wish you were already dead." Sirach 33:20-24 warns against such action, which could lead to financial ruin. Not to mention the shame brought upon the family! Children were expected to honor and obey their parents (Exod 20:12). In Roman society, the father had patria potestas-life and death over his children. So the first surprise is not only that the son is so very disrespectful, but that the father gives in to his request!