Although the word, “prodigal,” has become synonymous with “wayward, rebellious runaway,” it actually means “wasteful, extravagant reckless wild living.” I think this fits well with our entitlement culture. It seems to me that prodigals feel an extreme sense of “you owe me for my existence.” Perhaps I am reading too much into today’s main text (Luke 15:11-12), but it appears to me that the younger son is saying, “Father, you owe me. So give me what’s mine (even if it’s ahead of time)!”
The father does not fight this defiant, rebellious son, but instead gives him what the son thinks he deserves, and lets… him… go! Any parent knows how hard this is. It is hard enough when your child is leaving for college or the military or merely moving out on his/her own, but when they are leaving on not-too-good-of terms, our hearts are bleeding…. But he also did not enable the son by negotiating or chasing after him; another heart-wrenching decision….
Ironically, I have also found that if I chase after a “prodigal,” I only entitle them all the more. I have inadvertently empowered and enabled them in their reckless temper tantrum. And the more I do rescue them, the deeper their sense of entitlement is driven…. Truly a lose-lose scenario.
This is why I admire the father in this story. He did not prevent his son from learning a very difficult lesson—the hard way. Nor did he chase after him. But as I observe the collection of stories in Luke 15, there is a common element of searching, though not as commonly taught. The shepherd diligently searches for the lost sheep—and finds it; the woman fervently searches for the lost coin—and finds it; and the father earnestly searches the horizon for his lost son—and ‘finds’ him! Though the father did not actively run after his son in search of him so as to entitle him again, he does eagerly run to his son, once the son has release this sense of entitlement (as evidenced in his returning). Truly, the son came to his senses….
Lifestyle worshiper, have you found that it displeases the Lord when we chase after “prodigals” well before they have come to their senses? I have. And I have done them a grave disservice. Yes, it is painful to remain ‘at home’ and diligently search the horizon, but it is far wiser—for the sake of the “prodigal,” don’t you think? Your thoughts?
Main Text: — Luke 15:11-12 — 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. [NIV84]
Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. — Proverbs 19:19 (NIV84)
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? —Luke 9:25 (NIV84)
Everything [the teachers of the law and Pharisees] do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi. — Matthew 23:5-7 (NIV84)
Heavenly Father, I find it fascinating that You sent Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to seek after the lost sheep of the House of Israel; You sent Him to the lost Samaritan woman at a well; and you sent Him to the lost crowds who were like sheep without a Shepard, but in wisdom He did go after the ‘prodigals’…. And yet He was available if they came to Him. Grant me the wisdom, insight, and courage to do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.