Singaporean Parable: Mr Toh and his two Sons

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Mr Toh had two sons and lived a comfortable life in a bungalow near the coast. His older son, Kou worked faithfully in the family business. But the younger son, Ming was another story. One day, Ming dropped out of university and wanted to go see the world. He told his father, “Give me my inheritance now. I need the money to travel and enjoy life.”

Thus, Mr Toh sold the bungalow and downgraded to a smaller HDB flat with Kou. Ming happily took the money and travelled all around Asia, spending it without any thought. He drank, took drugs and slept with prostitutes. But one day, he realised he couldn’t pay for a lavish hotel meal. His money was wiped out.

So the hotel staff kicked Ming out and all his friends abandoned him quickly. It happened to be an economic crisis and jobs were scarce. Ming went hungry for a few days, sleeping on street corners in the rain. He began digging up half eaten food from the trash bins but other homeless people forced him out of their territory.

Finally, Ming came to his senses. He realised he had messed up big time. Even all the domestic helpers at home had enough food to eat. Why should he starve out here like a tramp? But after all he had done, could he go back and still deserve to be a son? No, Ming decided that he wasn’t worthy to be called a son but rather a servant. So he made the long way home.

But while Ming was still a long way off, Mr Toh saw him from the window. He looked at the dirty and haggard boy and recognized it was Ming. No doubt about it! Mr Toh in his excitement ran down five flights of stairs in his singlet and boxers. His neighbours looked at him in shock, wondering what had happened to the prim and proper Mr Toh. Something must have happened.

Mr Toh ran up to Ming and hugged him tightly. Ming was so smelly but he didn’t care. His son was finally back home. Ming didn’t dare to look at his father but whispered, “I’m not worthy to be your son anymore. Treat me like…”

Mr Toh interrupted him. “Let’s celebrate! We got to party now that Ming is back.” He brought Ming home and gave him fresh clothes to wear. Within minutes, Ming was back to his usual self, glad that he was back home. The oldest wine from the cellar was out, his favourite sashimi buffet was ordered and his favourite music was playing in the background. Mr Toh called his neighbours to come and celebrate also.

Meanwhile, Ming’s older brother, Kou was in the company office working overtime again. He saw a flurry of messages on his phone from his father: “Come home and celebrate now! Ming is back!” Kou was confused then he became furious and refused to come home. He thought, “Why should this terrible ingrate brother deserve to have a party? He should be disciplined and locked out. He forced us to downgrade houses also.”

Kou decided he would not go home and continued working. To his surprise, his father came to the office. Mr Toh pleaded with Kou to come home. But Kou said, “Look, how can you throw a party for this son of yours after all that he has done? I’ve been so faithful working for you all this year’s and you never even let me party with my friends at my favourite restaurant?”

His father sighed. “Kou, all that I have is yours. But this brother of yours is back. We have to celebrate because he’s not dead but alive, not lost but found.”


Think about it:

1. Have you ever messed up your life like Ming? If you were Ming, would you have gone home?

2. Would you react like Kou when his father called him to come home and celebrate Ming’s return? Why?

3. Which of the three characters do you most identify with? Mr Toh, Ming or Kou? Or a combination of character traits?

This is adapted from the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). See my earlier one on Mr Chen and the Lost Student.

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