It is believed that in our culture (that of the United States) that we carry with us an intrinsic life focus on wealth. This should not surprise us because of our place in a capitalistic society. We live within an ethic of wealth accumulation, thus when we read this parable our glasses cause us to focus on the part about “squandering one’s wealth or inheritance.” The meaning we often first pull from this teaching is about living more responsibly with regard to wealth and inheritances. U.S. Americans are less likely to think about this young man’s fate or his father’s graciousness until after pondering what is seen as the young man’s wasteful nature and dissolute living.
The effect of culture or “social location” on interpretation becomes very significant, but often remains an unknown presence in our own interpretive efforts. In part 5, I will share some understandings of the factors present in “social location” for the other two groups of seminary students studied by Dr. Powell.