Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Prodigal Father?

A while back I wrote an entry on the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).  At the time (and up to today), I've always thought the word "prodigal" referred to a person who went "astray" and later repented and returned home, as exemplified in this Biblical story.  I learned today, however, that the top two definitions of the word are as follows:
 prodigal, adj.
1. Spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.
2. Having or giving something on a lavish scale.
I feel a bit embarrassed - as if I should have known this long ago - but I guess I've only heard the word "prodigal" in reference to the parable told by Jesus.  And while it is true that the son in the story was wasteful and spent his money freely and recklessly (which makes every definition of the word "prodigal" applicable here), if you look at it from a different angle...

Was not the father - the father who scanned the horizon looking and longing for his son's return - just as prodigal?  When the son returned, the father threw a huge party rather than voice disappointment in his son's poor decisions.  The father was wastefully extravagant with his love, spent that love freely and recklessly on his son and gave it to a lavish degree. Is that not "prodigal" by definition? 
And so I wonder... is the point of the story about the bad choices the son made or about the love of the father?  If it is the latter, perhaps we have not only incorrectly titled the parable, but also incorrectly placed an emphasis on the deeds of the son rather than the nature of the father.

Perhaps it is time to rename this story.


Jeff said...

This parable to me, has always about the Love of the Father; and as such, I've crossed out "The Prodigal Son" in my bible.

Annie said...

I might just do the same, Jeff. Good idea...