Friday, 23 August 2019

What does prodigal mean anyway?

PRODIGAL: spending money or using resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.

I guess we all know the parable of the Prodigal Son. A rich man had two sons, the younger one asked his father for his share of the inheritance, took the money and went away to spend it all on wine, women and songs. Personally, I would have chosen chocolate instead of one of those three.

When the money ran out, and there was a famine, the wasteful son came to his senses and returned to his father in repentance.

The father was glad to see him back and had a great feast to celebrate the return of his son.

When the older son found out he was very angry and upset because he had been faithful to his father all along, working 24/7 in the fields, and never got anything as a reward.

Now I suspect that most people, like me, would sympathise with the older brother. After all, the younger one wasted all the money away and here he is, once again, welcomed back to share even more of what is left.

But what is Jesus really trying to teach us in this parable?

He is reminding us once again about God's infinite mercy for us. Time and time again, no matter how much we sin, or how serious a sin, we should never doubt His mercy. Once a sin is repented over, God's love consigns that sin to a place where it should never again hinder our progress towards Him.

God is merciful and He forgives time and again.

Jesus said that He would leave the ninety-nine sheep and go looking for the one that is lost.

"In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7).

In human terms, it is understandable if we feel sorry for the older brother who feels hard done by in this parable. But Jesus here is not talking about money, or inheritance, or fairness.

He is telling us that God is merciful and He forgives. And we should not be jealous if He forgives someone whom we consider not worthy of forgiveness. Rather, we should be glad that one lost soul has been saved and once more returned to the family of God.

As for us, when we have sinned and repented we must be glad of God's mercy and forgiveness. We should consign our regrets, our bitterness, our self-pity and disappointments of ourselves to the past where they belong. And rejoice that we too have been welcomed back like the prodigal son.

16 comments:

  1. As many times as I've read and heard this Gospel I never knew what the word "prodigal" meant. That is sad in many ways. And, yes, I do sympathize with the older son, but guess that's the sin of pride talking. . .as if I am blameless and always to the will of God. Thank you for this reflection!

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    1. I too always sympathised with the older son; until I realised this parable has nothing to do with money, sharing or inheritance. Jesus used the story as an example to explain about God's mercy and forgiveness.

      God bless you, Cathy.

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  2. They each did what they wanted to do. To me neither one was right nor wrong. Foolish perhaps. The father still loved both sons.

    I have always loved this...

    "In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7).

    God's Blessings Victor~

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    1. And that's true, Jan. Repentance is our first step back to God.

      God bless.

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  3. How I love this story of God's love and mercy toward us when we truly repent! We need to show that same love and mercy, the best we can, to those around us.
    Blessings, Victor!

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    1. Yes, Martha, if only we were more merciful and forgiving of others the world would know true peace.

      God bless.

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  4. I, too, never considered the exact definition of prodigal. (How different I'd presumed!) This is a wonderful story. I, myself, am testimony to God's mercy.

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    1. God is very merciful, Mevely. We are so fortunate that He is.

      God bless you.

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  5. An excellent reminder, Victor. Thank you. Our Pastor is beginning a series of sermons on the Parables in the Bible. I'm sure this one will be included.

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    1. I would be interested to know what your Pastor says about this parable, Terri.

      God bless.

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  6. In many ways, we are all the prodigal. After all, could we EVER do enough to deserve the lavish mercy shown to us? I think not!
    Good Post, Victor!

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    1. Agreed, Lulu. His mercy is never-ending; as long as we want it!

      God bless.

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  7. I too never really knew the exact meaning of prodigal.

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    1. Neither did I, Happyone. I had to check.

      God bless.

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  8. I remember hearing this story when I was young. I always felt bad for the older son too. It's interesting hearing it and intrepreting years later. It's the same story but now it has a different meaning due to a better understanding.
    Thank you!

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    1. I too, Bill, always thought this story as being about money and inheritance and how the father welcomed his son back. On thinking about it, I believe it is to show how merciful and forgiving God is; and how we should rejoice at his generosity in forgiving us.

      God bless you, Bill.

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