You don't do the Bible, or any human being greater honor, or understand them better, by taking them literally.

To take something "metaphorically" doesn't mean that we treat it as just a fluffy literary decoration.

In mathematics there's a term for what a metaphor does: it's called "a mapping." A useful metaphor says that one thing has a similar structure to another thing; they behave alike in analogous circumstances. One of them can be taken as a useful hint toward understanding how the other works, though such a map won't always necessarily apply.

So, we are "children of God." That doesn't mean that we're God's biological offspring; but it does describe the relationship in significant ways. We're smaller, weaker, less informed -- and we don't have enough wisdom that we should brag much. And -- however well or badly we do --We're loved.

In Jesus' day, children had no status in their own right. (And, claiming nothing, could "enter the kingdom of God" where their elders could not.)

They were expected to do a great deal of work. A great deal was needed for bare survival; their parents couldn't do it all. So (even though children were an expense, and a trial then as well) they were valued for the work they put into the household.

That doesn't mean they weren't loved, or mourned when (all too often) they died. But their practical uses were important.

Just as important, anything they did publicly would in some way affect their family, whether in honor, disgrace, or ruinous feuds with the neighbors.

Obedience in children was therefore of utmost importance. It doesn't have the same unquestioned value in modern circumstances.

We may need to count on being heard if a child  plays with dangers he can't understand, or if (say) the house starts to burn down. We need to be respected when ignoring us could bring a child to harm.

But most of the time, we expect children to develop initiative, make choices and know what they want. "Anything you say. Whatever," isn't an answer that helps much in choosing a gift, say, or wanting to know something we'd enjoy doing together. Being a wise adult is no substitute for having one's child take an interest in something, an active interest in almost anything.

Another aspect of that relationship is 'inheritance.' A child was expected to take over the family when the old man died. But with children of God? God's not dying; and we wouldn't -- really wouldn't -- want to run this universe without God. People can imagine they'd like that -- if they didn't realize what God is really like. If, like Job before his troubles, they only knew God by hearsay.

That was the shocker in the story of the Prodigal Son. This kid wanted to take the money, run off, live a life of his own. Aside from the fact that children in First Century villages didn't _do_ such a thing; if it's God that wayward son is hoping to escape, he won't have much luck. Cleaning up after the pigs and living on pilfered pig-chow is a bad career move for a lost Jewish kid.

In modern times -- What that kid is doing is something most Americans wouldn't think twice about; he's become 'independent.' He got a little wild, at first, but once he's working for a living, he's a normal American. (He should look around for a better job, though.)

Shouldn't we take another look at that value of 'independence'? Between human parents and children, it seems to make for a great many lonely people. Between people and God? That's not what 'growing up' is supposed to mean.

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