What I didn't know about the prodigal son


You know the prodigal son story from the Bible right? Boy asks his father to give him his inheritance early and he leaves and squanders it all then, humbly, returns back to his father’s house. It’s a story I’ve heard my entire life.

 Fast forward to the present:

I’m working through a workbook that’s all about engaging your creativity and I stumbled upon this line: “The universe is prodigal in its support.” (The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron)


Prodigal in its support.


What? I’m confused. That doesn’t even make sense. Prodigal is about getting lost and being found, right? Nope. How could I have missed it? How could I not have known? I literally can’t remember a time when I didn’t know The Prodigal Son story and you’re telling me I’ve had the definition of “prodigal” wrong this whole time? Yep. Sigh. Still so much to learn.

I was so baffled by the line in the book that I immediately looked up the definition of prodigal. Are you ready?

Prodigal- 1. Spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant

                   2. Having or giving something on a lavish scale  (New Oxford American Dictionary)


Come again?

I get that the first part of the first definition directly relates to the prodigal son but can we talk about the second parts?

Wastefully extravagant.

Having or giving something on a lavish scale.

I had no idea. Like none. I always thought the story was about the son losing his way and finding it again and his father being merciful. I thought “prodigal” was used only to describe the son because I didn’t know what it meant; I had no idea that all this time it described the father too. Our Father.

God is prodigal in His love for us. He is wastefully extravagant towards us. He gives mercy, love, kindness, goodness, all the things to us on a lavish scale.

I always thought the story was about the son when it was about the Father all along. He wastes His love on us because He’s made of it. He’ll never be short on love for us. He pours it out lavishly for us to receive.

The son was wastefully extravagant with his monetary resources, but God’s resources have no end so He can afford to be reckless with them.

When’s the last time I was recklessly kind?

When’s the last time I wasted an exorbitant amount of money to show someone I cared about them?

When’s the last time I wasted an extravagant amount of time with Jesus?

Ya’ll what if we were prodigal toward one another in our love and kindness and mercy?

What if we gave it away like we’d never run out?

I think that’s when we’d start looking a whole lot more like Jesus.

It’s funny we talk a lot in our culture about balance and moderation. Whether it is work, exercise, alcohol, screen time, eating, how we spend money, or any other thing, we’re all trying to be careful to have just the right balance. We don’t want to be reckless with our lives so we moderate and try to control. And I don’t think this is a bad way to live at all. I think keeping things in their rightful place, or balance, is smart. But I think sometimes we get so worried about self-preservation we forget that the stuff of Jesus doesn’t run out. There’s no rationing goodness in God’s economy. We don’t do love in moderation there. We don’t withhold kindness because we’re not sure where our next kindness is coming from. We don’t offer as little forgiveness as we can. No, that’s not how God operates so we shouldn’t either. God’s ALL IN. He has shown me that time and time again throughout my life.

Don’t forget how extravagantly He’s loved you. Be sure to remember the kindness He’s wasted on you. And mercy? Well, He gave up everything to give you that one. He’s after you so He can be good to you.

Who knew the prodigal son was really about a prodigal Father? It only took me 30+ years to figure it out.