The story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15: 11-32 is one of the most iconic parables in all of Scripture. There is arguably more artwork (sculptures, paintings, literature, stained glass) focused on the Prodigal Son than any of the other 30 parables in the Bible. It’s an epic story, praised for its beauty, extravagant grace, surprising narrative and simplicity.
But do you know the story as well as you think you do?
Here are a few insights from the Prodigal that could surprise you, but even if they don’t, it’s a powerful reminder about God’s extravagant grace toward us—his sons and daughters.
1. The word “Prodigal” doesn’t mean rebellious or lost—it means “wasteful” and “extravagant.” The word origin refers to a person who’s reckless and squanders their wealth.
2. The parable is fictional. The events in the story didn’t happen, but they’re meant to unpack a powerful truth through storytelling.
3. The story wasn’t told to encourage Christian parents with rebellious kids—it was told by Jesus to Pharisees and scribes to unpack the lavish love of God for sinners.
4. The parable of the Prodigal is the last of three parables Jesus shares about loss and redemption--The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son--and it’s best read in that context to understand the full force of Jesus’ narrative.
5. When the prodigal son asked for his inheritance, it was like saying to his father, “I wish you were dead.” It was a huge insult, weighted with shame and guilt.
But God never wants us to feel shame and guilt, and goes above and beyond to prove his lavish love and extravagant grace toward us.