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On Prodigals

November 8, 2007

Not having grown up in church or around church or even hearing bible stories, the word “prodigal” was not even in my vocabulary. The first time I ever heard the term “prodigal son” was in a song that a group sang when I first started attending Delano Baptist.

“Like the prodigal son, I wandered in darkness.”

That’s all I know of the song, but I guess that’s all one really needs to know to get the gist of what a prodigal is. But just in case we need a more full explanation, here’s what says: Unabridged (v 1.1)Cite This SourceShare This prod·i·gal [prod-i-guhl] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation –adjective

1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
2. giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually fol. by of or with): prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
3. lavishly abundant; profuse: nature’s prodigal resources.


4. a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

So, that’s a prodigal. Every family has one. But the question that always seems to befuzzle families is … “what to do about them.”

A few years ago, I read a book, I think it was titled, “How To Love A Prodigal.” I read it of course, not because I had a child who was wasting a fortune, but because what I deemed a prodigal was a child with whom I had lost influence, communication and basically a broken relationship.

I also participated a few times in a small group of people who also had issues with prodigals … and it was comforting (I suppose — or maybe the word is “supporting”) to know that others understood my pain. But the overall problem was “how to deal … and also how to “make them” do as they should.”

A good friend of mine, Ellen, wrote a story about her dealings with her prodigal son. Basically she said that God had revealed to her through the story of Jonah and the whale that by trying to “run interference” for him and help him through her own strength, she may be preventing him from circumstances where he comes to his own realization of how much he needs God.

She tells a better, full length version of this story … and perhaps I’ll be able to find that and post it. But, think about the Jonah story. God told Jonah what He wanted him to do, but Jonah went his own way. When the boat came upon the storm, Jonah realized that this “troubled water” he was in was relative to his refusal to follow God’s direction. He didn’t tell the captain of the ship to turn the boat around and head to Ninevah … instead he told them to just throw him overboard to “save their own lives.”

Wonder what if he had said … “All right. All right … I get it. Let’s go on to Ninevah and get out of this storm.” Probably would have been a begrudging performance or obedience at best. He was stubborn … like so many of us.

You know we’d probably say something like, “Well, yes I know what I’m supposed to be doing but no one is going to make me do what I don’t want to do. So I’d rather die in the ocean than give in … so just throw me overboard and you all go on about your business.”

Funny thing … the sea did calm when Jonah was thrown overboard. The fellas on the boat were safe … and there was Jonah, floating around in the water until suddenly, GULP … swallowed up by a Big WHALE of a FISH.

Wonder where his Mama was? If she had been standing on the deck of the boat, especially when the crew was lifting him up to throw him in the water … she would probably have been panicking, grieving, begging for help, prayer and mercy for her son. And, most likely, unless they were a completely unsavory crew, they would have had some mercy. But the bible doesn’t say they were unsavory … it says they did not want to throw him overboard. But finally, they did …

You know the story — Jonah spent three days in the belly of that fish, who eventually ended up “regurgitating” him onto the shore … where?  Oh, I think somewhere near NINEVAH!

How many times in life have we avoided doing what God impressed upon us to do, and went our own way ignoring Him, thinking we’ve bypassed that task only to wind up right smack dab in the middle of where He wanted us to go in the first place.

God is Sovereign. Amen?

Well, Ol’ Jonah went on to Ninevah and preached his messages … and people repented and lives were saved.  Great story, huh?   Except, Jonah didn’t think things turned out like he thought they should have … so he pouted.  Oh Jonah, do we ever learn?

Once a prodigal … always a prodigal?  Well, not necessarily. But there’s plenty of prodigal in each of us to admit that we’re prone to slip back in to our own selfish ways …

But, back to the question.  What to do about the prodigal in your life?

When is enough … ENOUGH?  In the passage of the Bible where it talks about the Prodigal Son … just before there are some analogies (or parables) about a lost coin, a lost sheep … and the owners doing everything they could to find them … reclaim them.

But it does not say that the father of the Prodigal Son went out searching for him. In fact, it seems like he just kept on living the life he was living …

The Prodigal Son did something that the lost coin and the lost sheep did not, or could not do on their own … He came back.  He sunk to rock bottom and realized that he’d be better off as a servant (slave) in his father’s house than to continue as he had been. In humility and repentance, he returned to his father.  And his father ran to meet him.

Did the father pray for his son?  Most likely.  Did he worry and fret over his son?  Probably so.  But he also “let him go” when the son came to him and said, “I want my money and I want to head out on my own.”

And we also remember the other brother who was jealous of the grand reception his ne’er-do-well brother got when he came home.  He was miffed because he HAD done the responsible thing … he had remained loyal to his family.   But his father wanted to celebrate because his son was home … and the fellowship was restored.

“My son that was lost is come home.”  The father knew humility too.

Good story…worthy of some thought.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 26, 2009 4:20 am

    I was looking for the words to the prodigal song, and saw this post. I did find the words at

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