There was a son who got tired of living on the family farm and decided to chase the big city lights. After a whirlwind summer, he stumbled home broke and broken, too ashamed to look his father in the eyes. But when he was still a speck on the horizon, his dad abandoned all dignity and ran to the rebellious child. Before the boy could even mumble his sorry apology, his father had already wrapped him in the arms of love and forgiveness.
There have been countless retellings of this story. Paintings and stained glass scattered throughout Christendom. Songs. Plays. Cartoons. Rudyard Kipling even wrote a poem about it.
But all along, we’ve been calling the wrong guy the “prodigal”.
See, it was the father who spent recklessly on the one who least deserved it. The older brother knew that; he pulled his dad aside and tried to set him straight. The party, the robe, the feast – it was all so lavish, so extravagant. So wasteful. After all, who slaughters the fatted calf for the boy who’s already wasted so much? Who throws a party for a kid who’s already thrown away his inheritance? How much is this guy going to waste on his worthless kid?
This is how God loves.
He pours out rain and sunshine on both the good and the evil. He gives to all of us liberally. He loves without holding back. Maybe, every once in a while, a man would give his life for someone beautiful and noble. But God put His love on display by dying when we were sinners – helpless, hopeless, and worthless.
To a reasonable economist, it makes no sense. But in the Kingdom of God everything is upside down. The peasants sit around the King’s table, and He serves them the best He has. The well-behaved bystanders shake their heads in disbelief as He wastes His wealth on us.
The Prodigal Father shows us that what is given recklessly in love is never really wasted.
(Thank you Rachel for the Sunday Superlatives shoutout!)