Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 21, 2011 0 comments

Every once in awhile, you come across one of those words that has a meaning that no one can actually define but everyone seems to know what it is.  This is mainly due to the context in which the word is used.  The word for this week is a perfect example.  Most of you are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.  As soon as you hear "Prodigal Son", you immediately know what I'm talking about because of the story (context).  However, when we separate the word "prodigal" from the story, most of us wouldn't be able to define it.  I gave a group of guys who take part in a Bible study I lead that very task a few weeks ago.  When asked to define "prodigal", their answers were along the lines of "disobedient, lost, and rebellious".  While a prodigal individual may be described by those very adjectives, an important part of the meaning of the word is often left out.
Initially, I thought that I would just look it up in the Bible using my Greek New Testament.  Surely, the word is in the story for which it is often used as a title, right?  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to figuring out the Biblical meaning of this word.  I found out it's not even in the Bible!  Super!  So, that means that its usage in the Luke 15 parable is simply a matter of tradition (is anyone else singing the song from Fiddler on the Roof in their head when they see that word?).  That doesn't mean we should cease using "prodigal" in this Biblical context.  We live and speak by traditions in all areas of life.  It does mean that we must look elsewhere if we want to find its meaning.
The word "prodigal" comes from the Latin prodigere, which means "to squander".  Webster defines it as "extravagantly wasteful".  This meaning goes a step further than simply being lost or disobedient.  Obviously, one cannot be considered wasteful unless he has something valuable to waste in the first place.  In the Luke 15 parable, the younger son receives his share of his father's estate and "squanders his wealth in wild living".  His wastefulness, or prodigal activity, drives him from a point of wealth to a situation of extreme poverty in which he feeds pigs for small wages and finds himself desiring to eat their food..  We can conclude that he was a Jew for two reasons: 1) it was Jewish custom for fathers to divide their estate into certain portions and this would have been known by the sons all their lives, and 2) Jesus was telling this parable to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, so he would've appealed to their cultural customs (which were also his).  I bring up the fact that the prodigal son was a Jew because Jews consider pigs to be unclean animals according to their law.  He had been so wasteful with his gift that it drove him to a point of compromising not only the morals he wanted to ignore, but also the ones he would've wanted to hold onto.  What a lesson for us!  We are foolish when we think we can live wastefully and still manage the damage.  Almost every time, we find ourselves compromising a lot more than we had planned.
Fortunately for us, the point of the parable in the second half of it is that we have a loving Father who allows us to be wasteful, grieves as He watches us experience the natural consequences of our choices, and then welcomes us back to Him with no strings attached when we finally let go of our pride and return to Him in humility.  That does not give us a license to be prodigals!  I mean, we can certainly choose to be wasteful and He will give us that freedom and won't love us any less.  But we must heed the warning of this parable.  If we choose to live wastefully regarding our inheritance, we WILL lose it.  It's not something we can squander and get back whenever we need without true humility and repentance. 
I think it's important here to be clear about what I mean by "our inheritance".  Too often, Christians and non-Christians alike focus solely on heaven and hell.  In my humble opinion, this parable is not directly about eternity.  Eternity only comes into play for the prodigal who never returns, and even on that point there is much disagreement within the Church universal about whether he would still receive his eternal inheritance or not.  Friends, I'm not going to focus on that right now because to me, the parable and the very word "prodigal" is about life right now!  If inheritance for believers is strictly about heaven, then just kill me now and get it over with.  I know we're here to glorify God and all that, but I just want my inheritance.  Hopefully, you get my sarcasm.  Our inheritance is right now!  When you come to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of your life, he gives you a new nature, a fresh perspective and direction for your life.  You can find no greater joy than following him and walking in relationship with him.  All other things in this world that appear to bring you greater joy initially are just temptations of the flesh.  They may work temporarily, just as the prodigal son enjoyed the fleeting pleasures that his wealth bought him.  But as soon as those pleasures were gone, so was his joy.
If you have a personal relationship with Christ and you view him as Savior and Lord of your life, your gift/inheritance is a joy-filled life where you no longer have to chase worldly pleasures.  "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30).  That doesn't mean circumstances will always feel easy or joyous, but it does mean that nothing and no one can replace your true joy (inheritance) no matter what happens.  To live as if anything else can replace it is to live as a prodigal, wasting the inheritance.  If you do not view Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are not a prodigal.  You are simply lost and have not found that true joy yet.  Either way, God has offered this inheritance to every single one of us.  It is divided equally to all, but it never runs out from His end.  The only ways we can ever be without it is to never take it in the first place, or to take it and waste it.  Whatever category you find yourself in today, know that the Father grieves for you, and He lovingly waits until you will let go of your pride and humbly come to Him.

For further study read James 1:19 – 25

If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ are you allowing anything into your life that is hindering your relationship with Christ?

Are you a person that says you’re a Christ-follower but in reality you are no different than a non-believer in the way you live your life?

If the Holy Spirit revealing anything to you right now that you need to change in your life? If the Spirit is then make the choice to do what the Spirit is telling you.

Hear God’s Voice and Obey. Don’t be like the Prodigal Son.