Having Christian parents meant that I was familiar with the story that Jesus told tax collectors and the downtrodden in society of the prodigal son. For those who (a) haven’t rolled their eyes and clicked off the page and (b) are not familiar with the story, let me summarise.
A wealthy man had two sons, the younger of which essentially couldn’t wait for his father to die and asked for his inheritance prematurely. So his father, without a second thought, halved his possessions and gave it to his youngest, who immediately left for the cities.
The son was initially rolling in money and friends, but having spent the wealth he realised that his friends loved his money more than him.
Long story short, he ended up working in a pig farm and, hungry and alone, realised that his father’s servants live a better life than he did. He decided that, if his father wanted him back, he would come back and work as one of the servants.
When he was visible on the horizon from his father’s house, however, his father sprinted out of the house to gather him in his arms, rejoice in his return, and throw a big party.
I’ve never taken the liberty of looking up what the word “prodigal” actually meant. Having seen the word crop up in this context for nearly as long as I’ve learnt to talk, I’ve just been associating it with some vague negative meaning. Turns out that prodigal (adjective) in the dictionary meant (1) spending money or using resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant and (2) having or giving something on a lavish scale.
Just about sums up the son, right?
When I first saw the definition, I actually thought that it describes the father too. After all, he spent money and gave away half of his possessions to his son freely. I’m convinced that he does it recklessly too – having raised him, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t intimately know his son and realise that the wealth will soon be gone in the son’s hands.
The seasoned Sunday school attendees among us will already know that the prodigal father personifies our very own Heavenly Father. I never stop being floored by this particular story told by Jesus. It never ceases to amaze me how God gives prodigally: recklessly, extravagantly, and lavishly.
Today, I am thankful for my Prodigal Father.