This month I am sharing with you about Prodigal Living. I am celebrating marking two things off my to-do list! This summer I wrote a 5 Day Devotional for the Prodigal Daughter, a free gift for you (click here to receive it) AND I wrote my first book. I can’t believe I just said that! Hopefully, the first of many. Getting this baby ready for you has taken longer than I expected (it is especially hard now that we have started our homeschool year). It is finished, but I am proofing it again and working on the formatting, so keep your eyes open for Prodigal Confessions: 10 Principles the Lead Us Back to the Father (probably out in the beginning of November). I hope to add a study guide for the eBook soon, as well.
Today, I thought it might be good to talk about the meaning of the word Prodigal as we see it in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son, or the Parable of the Lost Son, from Luke 15:11-32.. Some of you already know that this title, “Parable of the Prodigal Son”, has fallen out of common use because of a popular book by Tim Keller, The Prodigal God (amazon link). And others of you have only heard of it as “The Parable of the Lost Son” or “The Parable of the Two Sons.” Jesus Himself opens the story simply with, “There was a man who had two sons” (Luke 15:11). The word Prodigal never appears in the His narrative.
For most of my life, I thought that Prodigal meant wayward. I understood the word only from the context of the parable about a son who loses his way, wanders away from his family and right-living, but returns in the end. I didn’t know the actual definition of the word. This led me to miss some important things about the story. There is an interesting lesson here about Bible knowledge. We can get a little too comfortable with the Bible sometimes, so that we take it for granted.
For one thing, no matter how long we have studied it, no matter how many Sunday school lessons we have taught, no matter how many verses we have memorized, we must always remain students. Every mature Chirstian I know says the same thing: when I study the Bible, I constantly learn new things. It is not one of those books where you can say, “Oh yeah, I read that Book.”
For another thing, we can get confused about what WE bring to the text and what is actually there. Some of us have a cultural understanding of the Bible that conflicts with the text. We might get the Moses we read about in Exodus confused with Charlton Heston’s Moses in the 1956 movie, The Ten Commandments. Or we could confuse the Noah in Genesis with Russell Crowe’s Noah. Books and movies take liberties with the Word. Friends, Bible teachers, and sometimes even pastors can make mistakes when they instruct us. For casual readers of the Bible, it is easy to be misled. Even if we are students of the Word, inaccuracies in the retelling of it can sneak up on us. We should always approach the Word humbly, ready to see the things we have overlooked or misunderstood in the past.
Next week, I am teaching our kids’ Sunday School class on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. What a neat “coincidence,” to be teaching this story, since several of us rotate. I am inundated with the idea of being Prodigal. It will be interesting to hear what the littles have to say about the reading of this Parable. In my preparation for teaching, I ran across this video. If you have some young ones at home, you can show it to them and tell them that Prodigal means lavish, extravagant, costly, over the top…and be sure to tell them that God’s love for us is totally Prodigal. What Good News!