This morning I want to talk about dogs. Not just any dogs, but the dogs in this parable. It turns out that the dogs have an important role in this story—and when we properly understand the role of the dogs, a doorway opens to understand the parable more clearly.
When Americans think about dogs, they generally think of house pets that are well-groomed, well-fed, and well-behaved. In 2012, Americans spent serious money on their pets—$53 billion. While this $53 billion includes cats, birds, fish, reptiles, the largest share of these expenses is for dogs. Several decades ago I knew a Mennonite woman in a nearby town—member of a local Mennonite church—who had a pet dog. In addition to providing the usual dog food, this woman also bought steaks and chicken for her dog. In every way she pampered her dog.
Jews treated their dogs much differently. Dogs in Israel were not house pets. Instead dogs were mostly semi-wild and freely roamed out-of-doors. We have a little bit of evidence that people sometimes used dogs as work animals; shepherds, for example, used dogs to help control their sheep. Yet most dogs were not work dogs, it seems. Dogs lived outside, roamed wherever they wanted to go, and fended for themselves. They were mangy, not well-groomed; thin and scrawny, not well-fed. A close parallel would be the dogs you see now in many countries of the world. They live on the streets, look shabby and rundown, and often act a little mean.
- Luke 16:19 - 31