Is Prodigal Ever A Good Thing?

Most of us know the story found in the 15th chapter of Luke. Even if you are not a Christian you are most likely familiar with it. It’s the story about the son who goes to his father and demands his share of his inheritance. Right now. The father willingly gives him what he asks. The young man takes off, leaves home and recklessly squanders his inheritance on wild living. After a time he finds himself destitute. To add insult to injury the only job he can find is as a hired hand feeding pigs. For this Jewish man, this has severe cultural ramifications.

One day this young man looks around at his situation and realizes that the hired hands at his father’s home have it better than he does. So he decides to head back home, plead for his father’s mercy and ask that he be accepted back as a servant.

This young man is called the Prodigal Son and that is how this story is titled in most of our Bibles.

Prodigal means wastefully or recklessly extravagant; giving or yielding profusely; lavish; lavishly abundant; profuse.

Prodigal is probably not a word we use in our typical language and I dare say, when we do it is in the context of the negative example portrayed in our story. The son was certainly wasteful and reckless in his expenditures.

But what if this wayward son is not the only prodigal? What if prodigal is not always a bad thing? What if prodigal is a characteristic of God that he desires we exhibit?

What if prodigal is not always a bad thing? Click To Tweet

Our story goes on to a most astonishing end. As our downtrodden young man is trudging up the road toward home, he is rehearsing what he is going to say. With head down, he does not see his father keeping vigil in the distance. He doesn’t see his father running towards him. The next thing he knows he is swept up into his father’s embrace, never mind that he is dirty and stinks. His father’s profuse love for his son only knows that he was once lost but is now found.

In celebration, the father orders the fatted calf slaughtered and a feast prepared. He clothes his son with robes and sandals. The response of the father was to pour out lavish and extravagant – prodigal – love on his son. Some would say this wayward child did not deserve such things.

We all too often exemplify the negative of prodigal in our lives. We spend too much, we drink too much, we gossip too much, we work too much, we eat too much, we spend too much time on social media, we complain too much … to name a few ways we might squander time, resources, and relationships that have been given to us by God. And there are those who will begrudge us a second (or third…) chance.

But that is not how it is with God. His love for us is prodigal. Extravagant, lavishly abundant.

God's Love For Us Is Prodigal! Click To Tweet

Just as the lost son had to go home to experience and know the extravagant love of his father, so too must we go home. To Jesus.

The Christian community has just celebrated Easter. The remembrance of the death of Jesus and the proclamation of victory over sin and death through his resurrection. Is this not startling evidence of the prodigal love of God? That he would send his only son to die so that we could come home to him?

Jesus keeps vigil for us. He is waiting for us to come, hearts downtrodden, eyes downcast, bearing the weight of whatever we carry. In our stink and dirty state, he will wrap us up in his arms and celebrate that who was once lost is now found.

That’s us my friend. No matter how many times we might travel the road away, God stands ready to receive us home through Jesus. Every single time.

There is another story of prodigal love in the New Testament. We find it in John chapter 12. A single woman named Mary exhibits extravagant, even reckless, love for Jesus as she pours out sweet perfume on Jesus’ feet (John 12:1-11). Mary’s actions potentially risked her future. Just as there were no limits to Jesus’ love for her, Mary’s response to hold nothing back in response.

Prodigal love holds nothing back. Click To Tweet

I hope this challenges you the way it is challenging me. I’m not sure I know what kind of prodigal love God calls us to, or what that might even look like. I suspect it will be different for each one of us. I do know that I want to be a prodigal daughter of God. And the place to start is to truly receive and ponder the magnitude of God’s love for us in Jesus.

God my Redeemer, it was your prodigal love that sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to be lifted up on the cross – a love that seeks and serves the lost. As I trust in Jesus today, may I know your love that withholds the condemnation I deserve, and lavishes the acceptance I do not. Amen. (WC 7.3)