From Prodigal to Prodigy


The Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt (1668 -69)

I love the account of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32. The parable describes when a younger son asked for his inheritance (basically telling his dad that he wished him dead). The father granted his wish, and the son left home for a life of excess until his money was gone. The Bible says the son eventually recognized what he had done, and returned home, realizing that even servants who worked for his father fared better than he.

But in verse 20 (this is choking me ups as I write it) the Bible says “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

The action of the father here was culturally unacceptable in Jesus’ time. Patriarchs did not run. The expected thing was to have the son approach him and grovel for forgiveness. But see what the father did – the compassion and embrace came before the son even had a chance to confess and repent. The father forgave the son before the son sought forgiveness. Love trumps law.

The definition of the word “prodigal” means one who is “wastefully extravagant”. That word made me think of a word with a similar sound – prodigy. When I think of a prodigy, I think of a 4 year old who can play Mozart on a violin. Indeed it can mean that, but another meaning of the word is “an outstanding example”. A synonym is “a miracle”.

Think about that for a minute – the love of the Father, who humbles himself by shamelessly running to us, loves and forgives us before we can ask. He changes us from a wastefully extravagant, self-focused narcissist, into an outstanding example…a miracle of grace. I can only shake my head in amazement.

Father, help us all to live in recognition of your grace today. I pray that the reality of your love for us would overshadow us today, and that we would live in the recognition of what Christ provided for us.  

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