This term is used both as the title of Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:11-32 and a description of the younger son’s lifestyle. English translations do not use the term prodigal to describe this lifestyle but describe it by saying that he “wasted” or “squandered” his inheritance in “wild” or “loose” living. Unfortunately this title, focusing on the younger son, causes one to miss the point that both Jesus and Luke are making. This parable
should be called “The Parable of the Gracious Father,” for he is the character who occurs in both halves of the story and is the main character of the parable. In addition, the parable’s main point comes from the conversation between the older son and the father, through which Jesus defends the offers of salvation that God makes to the tax collectors and sinners (and other prodigals like them) and condemns the Pharisees and scribes for their opposition to this offer of mercy (Luke 15:1-2).