The word prodigal means “given to reckless extravagance...characterized by wasteful expenditure; lavish” (Webster). The young son in the parable Jesus told (Luke 15), is known as the prodigal son because he “wasted his possessions with prodigal living” (v. 13).
Here is a similar story: “In April of 1982, a penniless wino begged for drinking money outside a Las Vagas casino. Finally, when his pocket was full of change, he walked into the casino and dropped the coins in a slot machine. In a moment’s time, Cecil Burns, the ’wino,’ was standing in a mountain of silver dollars totaling $400,000.00. Yet, within the 24 hours which followed, this same man staggered back out on the street with not a penny in his pocket. He had totally wasted $400,000.00. Still, as foolish as that sounds to us, we really need to ponder whether or not we are willing to spend our lives for any purpose other than the purpose of conforming to the image of God’s Son and seeking His purpose in this generation” (Par Street Anchor, 12/82).
Many who look with disgust at the young son who wasted his inheritance, or the wino who wasted his ill-gotten wealth, have not learned that life spent any other way than serving God is wasted. “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26).