Parables are stories Jesus told to help us learn how to live as God’s children. He used common subjects from farming and family life to teach about his Father and life in his kingdom.
Though we often refer to this story as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” it could be called “The Parable of the Prodigal Father.” We may think that “prodigal” refers to sinful, rebellious, or wayward behavior. But it actually means “wasteful in a reckless way; extremely generous, lavish.” The term may describe the rebellious son’s wild living, but it also describes the father’s lavish love. This parable is about our Father’s character and how his generous love operates in a world full of wayward children.
At every turn in the story the father’s response is totally unexpected. He honors the outrageous request of the younger son and gives him his inheritance. The father’s love is so recklessly generous that it allows for rebellion. And later, instead of rejecting the son who rejected him, the prodigal father watches and waits for his eventual return. And when the son finally returns home, the father showers him with gifts and a banquet.
Jesus wants us to know without a doubt that his Father’s love is abundantly prodigal, and that when we repent and return home, our Father, with all of heaven, is ready to celebrate!