What does prodigal mean? This is how Merriman/Webster defines it.
Prodigal – “Characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure.”
When I think of children I relate it to how they are “spending” their lives. They are wasting their lives on temporary treasure. They are spending their time pursuing anything but the good God who paid an awful price for their soul.
Prodigals come in many packages. There are those that are blatantly rebellious. They refuse to follow their parents rules. Often that leads to being in trouble with the law. Pursuing physical thrills is high on their agenda which means they are involved in the abuse of drugs, alcohol and sex.
Then there is the previously compliant child who is swept away by the world’s viewpoint and values. They have “outgrown” their parents values and faith. They have found something more interesting or compelling to hold their attention. Their wanderings aren’t as blatant, but they are just as dangerous.
There are some that are doing exceptionally well by the world’s standards, but they have abandoned the faith their parents so carefully taught them. They may be gifted academically, musically and/or physically and their life is spent wastefully on those pursuits. The talents they were given as a way to glorify God have now become their god.
Finally, there are those who live a double life of sorts. They come to church and may even be quite involved, but their hearts are somewhere else. They are like the Pharisees who knew how to appear righteous, but their hearts were sick. They are spending their lives on religious check lists in public and their own passions in private. This verse sums it up. “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote.” (Isaiah 29:13 NASB)
We tend to think of the first example as prodigals. We don’t often classify the others the same way. All of them are in danger. All of them need to turn to the God who made them.
If we are honest there is a prodigal of sorts in all of us. We are wastefully spending our short and precious life on many things that have nothing to do with God. Just maybe, watching our own children pull fiercely away from God will cause us to cling to God more passionately.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB)