Time management

Planning Like the Prodigal Son

I may not be spending my money in ways that drive me from God like the prodigal son did, but how am I spending my time?

Nearly every Christian knows the story of the prodigal son, but many may not know what prodigal actually means. If you had asked me to define prodigal a few weeks ago, I would have guessed it meant lost or wayward, but it actually means “characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure.”

"But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." --Luke 15:20

Image by Pamula

That definition gives the story of the prodigal son a new focus for me. When I read this story growing up, I thought of the prodigal son as lost. But when I read the passage in Luke 15 with the new definition in mind, I noticed that the prodigal son leaves home because of his desire to “[waste] his substance with riotous living” (Luke 15:13). 

At first, I wasn’t sure how to apply this new insight to myself. After all, I’m a college student who simply can’t afford to be wasteful with my money. But I soon realized that I tend to be a little prodigal when I spend my time on things that aren’t productive or meaningful. When viewed through the lens of time instead of money, the story of the prodigal son won’t teach us how to always use our time wisely but it can teach us about finding grace.

The scriptures say that “when [the son] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). I love the father’s show of compassion because it teaches me that, contrary to my past beliefs, the Lord is compassionate when I struggle with my personal time management. With a new definition of prodigal in mind, this story made me realize that the Lord is glad when I change and come closer to him—even if it’s through something as simple as reprioritizing how I use my time.

As we plan out our coming days, weeks, and months, we might remember the meaning of prodigal as we work to use our time wisely. When we do, we will find Christ waiting with open arms to receive us, just like the father of the prodigal son.

Read more about the prodigal son in Luke 15.

Source: New Testament

—Phoebe English, Latter-day Saint Insights


Find more insights

Read “Eleven Techniques for Time Management” by Meagan Knight to learn how to manage time wisely.

Read and watch “Focus and Priorities by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. 

Take a look at “Good, Better, Best” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks for tips on how to determine the most important priorities in life.

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  1. Sarah Griffin Anderson

    I love this new meaning behind “prodigal.” I especially love how Phoebe related it to time management because that is something I am always working on. I’m excited to share this new definition with my friends and family!

  2. I love this take because I find that it’s so easy to be super hard on myself when I’m procrastinating or practicing bad time management. But remembering that I have the opportunity to start over and receive grace, just like the prodigal son, brings a sense of peace.

  3. This article was so insightful! Thank you, Phoebe!

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