Here is a shocking reality: the Prodigal Son is not merely a picture of the worst of sinners; he is a symbol of every redeemed sinner–alienated from God and without a hope in the world. He is a precise and living effigy of the entire human race–fallen, sinful, and rebellious.
–John MacArthur, A Tale of Two Sons.
Normally when we think of somebody as a prodigal son or daughter, we think of somebody like me. I had previously enjoyed the delights in the Father’s house, but then went astray. I knew better, but still took the path that led from the Father and into a far country. There I indulged my evil passions in riotous living.
When I think of my sinful ways, I think that surely Paul was mistaken when he identified himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). At least Paul’s persecution of the church happened before he became a Christian. He thought he was serving God by doing what he did. I knew I was running from God when I did what I did.
As heinous as my actions, as apt a description as prodigal is to how i lived, I do not have sole ownership of the prodigal moniker. Every single person is a prodigal. All were born as prodigals. All possess a prodigal nature.
I was in dire need of a repentant heart and a faith focused squarely on the person and work of Christ. That need is as dire for every other man and woman. Even that sweet elderly lady is a prodigal and in need of being drawn to the Father.
When I tell my story, it is not a conversation only for those who have fallen from the ministry. It is not only for the notorious sinner. It is for all. It is for the person who has persuaded themselves that they have a righteousness with which to stand before the Lord. That man or woman has a hardened heart that attempts to supplant God and his holiness with themselves and their works.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). So when you read the story of the Prodigal or you read the story of this prodigal, check your own heart to see whether you are in the faith or not. Has God drawn you to himself? Is that evident by your repentance and faith? If not, you are still a prodigal.