11. The Lost Coin

Meditating on the Parables of Luke: 11. The Lost Coin

Luke 15:8-10: Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Comment/Purpose: I find this very short and very simple parable surprising; it does not say what I expected it to say. When I first read it, I expected that it was going to teach about how important it is to seek out the kingdom of God, but it doesn’t, it teaches how wonderful it is when a lost sinner repents. I think that that is how it often is with Jesus’ teaching. We expect one thing but Jesus teaches another. For example, we might expect Jesus to teach that we get saved by working hard for the kingdom, but he doesn’t, he teaches that it is simply by believing in him, and inferred in that is coming to love, surrender to, and follow him. In that beautiful little episode earlier in Luke, Luke alone tells of the time when Jesus visited the house of Mary and Martha. Martha, you may remember, was concerned to make everything about his stay just right. Mary, by comparison, wasn’t bothered about cleaning the house up, getting the food ready and so on, she just wanted to sit at Jesus feet, be close to him and listen to him. Jesus applauded her devotion and warned Martha that she was missing out. It’s all about relationship.

The Content of the Parable:

  • a woman has ten silver coins and manages to lose one of them.
  • she lights a lamp, goes through the house, carefully sweeping everywhere until she finds it.
  • when she finds it she calls her friends and neighbors and invites them to join her in celebrating having found it.

The punchline is that in the same way there is much rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents.

Context: To catch the power of this simply little story, we need to observe the context. The chapter started, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Lk 15:1,2) after which came the parable of the lost sheep that Jesus then told. (That occurs in other Gospels which it why we are not covering it in this mini-series of those that appear in Luke only).  At the end of that first parable Jesus stated, “in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (v.7) Remember this was to counter the grumbling of the Pharisees and teachers of the law and so it is not surprising that Jesus doubles up, if you like, with two parables that have such a similar punch-line and such similar content.

Application: It must be seen in the light of Jesus meeting with the tax collectors and sinners and then the objections of the Pharisees. Both parables conclude with the comment about one sinner repenting. These Pharisees were inward looking and in fact in their minds probably kept themselves aloof from the sort of people Jesus was meeting with, but actually God was concerned for those people, He wanted them saved and that would not happen without interaction with them. The emphasis of both of these two parables is, therefore, how important even one person turning to Christ is in the eyes of heaven.

In a day when Christianity is under assault and people are abandoning their faith and love for God grows cold in many, these parables should perhaps stir us afresh to realise the reality of our salvation and how wonderful it is. If we have lost sight of the wonder of it, or we have had our minds clouded by modern thinking, we need to ask the Lord to help us realize afresh what it means to be lost – away from God, having no purpose in life apart from self-centred materialism, and no hope of an eternal destiny – and subsequently the wonder of what has happened to us through the combined work of Jesus on the Cross and now the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The sheep were precious to the shepherd, and the coins were precious to the woman, so much so that both of them spent time and energy looking for that which was lost. When they found the lost sheep / coin, that generated great joy in them, a joy that they wanted to share with others. That is how God felt when you and I turned to Christ. Perhaps we have forgotten that. That is how He wants to feel about people around us who don’t know Him. That is where we come in. A way of bringing Him much joy is by being part of the process whereby the one who is lost is found and restored to God. May we always be on the alert for those around us who He may be speaking to as part of the process of drawing them, part of the process of them ‘being found’.