What’s Most Important in the Prodigal Son Story?

Note:  I am in Spain for a month, with issues finding internet access, that is slow.  Please be patient, as I intend to post every Friday (or Saturday?), as usual.

Last night going to tapas with Juan and Pilar, we found the Cafeteria Amanda, the name of my daughter, number two of four kids.  Juan told me there is a very popular song, Te Recuerdo, Amanda (I remind you (to think of) Amanda).

We all know the story of the prodigal son, sometimes titled the lost son.  Few are aware that the word “prodigal” means “wastefully extravagant.”  The son took his inheritance early and went out and wasted it.  He came back, and his father accepted him with open arms.  Few are aware there is a prodigal son in the Old Testament as well.  King Manasseh went astray, but came back to, and was blessed by, God.

So what is the point of the prodigal son story?  Is it that in each case the person who had gone astray changed direction, chose a different path?  Is it that in each case, the Father they returned to accepted them with open arms?  Surely the point of the stories is just that – a son changing direction and being welcomed with open arms by the Father.

No, for me what is most important in the stories is that there was a key moment when the son turned from denial and self deception to awareness.  The fact that they each turned that new clarity and awareness to action to make a positive difference, and that they were accepted are all important to the illustrations.  But the most important point of the prodigal son stories is that their self examination led to light on the real issue.

In the case of Manasseh, this is described as he “humbled himself greatly.”  But the glaring truth I see in the stories is the prodigal son of the New Testament.  It is said that “he came to his senses.”

And this specific phrase carries much meaning to me.  As I discussed in the past, in the Old Testament, when God told Jeremiah to tell the people of Israel that they were headed for destruction, Jeremiah knew the message would not be popular and he asked God what he should say to the people when they rejected his message.  God said to tell them: “Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.”  To me, “coming to his senses” means transforming from foolish and senseless to wise.  In addition, it means he is no longer blind to his true condition and needs, nor is he any longer deaf to what his inner voice and others around him have been telling him.  That is the point – the prodigal son moves from foolish and senseless to wise and aware, and from blind and deaf to seeing and hearing.

Do you ever wonder what music of today (well, OK – a few years back) might come to mind of the people in the Bible?  Well, I think that the father of the NT prodigal son, as well as God himself with Manasseh, would sing right along with the Bee Gees:

But what does it bring if I ain’t got you, ain’t got? Baby
You don’t know what it’s like, baby
You don’t know what it’s like
To love somebody, to love somebody
The way I love you
I want my life to be lived with you, lived with you.

So, as I try to turn Good Love into Better Love, I examine myself.  When am I foolish and senseless?  How can I see and hear better, more accurately, the needs of those I love.  Even without a profound coming to my senses, do I recognize how much my mother and father have done for me, their unconditional love?  More importantly, do I tell them, do I try to return their love in action?  Yes, I do – I did it again this week.  Returning to the music theme, I want my theme song to transform from “Where there is love, I’ll be there” to “Where I am, there’ll be love, Good Love.”

About Mark Gredler

I want to move from Good Love to Better Love, share it, and share the Best Love of God. I like ancient and medieval history, especially of Spain. I like photographing Spanish fiestas, and visiting Romanesque churches, from the 11th to 13th centuries. I enjoy traveling, seeing new places, meeting new friends, taking photographs of that, and want to write more about it all.
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8 Responses to What’s Most Important in the Prodigal Son Story?

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