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Br. Jim Woodrum

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Wasteful, extravagant, profligate, spendthrift.  These are all words that are synonymous with the first definition in the dictionary of the word prodigal.  I have to admit that it was only recently that I learned that word’s true meaning.  I grew up in the Baptist church and all my life have been steeped in scripture.  I estimate that I’ve heard this parable from Luke’s gospel thousands of times in my lifetime.  But I never knew the true meaning of the word prodigal.  I had always just assumed it either meant ‘lost,’ as in the parable of the lost son.  Or perhaps ‘repentant,’ as in the parable of the repentant son.  These certainly could fit.  But after finally looking up the word, it all makes sense.  Prodigal:  spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.

There is not anything particularly unusual about the younger son’s request for his inheritance.  In William Barclay’s commentary on Luke’s gospel, he says that when a patriarch was of a certain age, he could go ahead and settle his affairs early.  By law the eldest son would get two-thirds of his father’s estate and the youngest would get one-third.[i]Jesus places no judgments on the younger son but simply implies that the he wanted to go live his life and asked for his share of inheritance and left.  It seems perfectly normal for a young person to desire this.  In my own life, I remember I couldn’t wait to leave the hills of southwestern Virginia and experience what life had in store for me in a bigger, exciting city. Read More