Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Parable of the Lost Coin: DON'T MOVE! I've Lost My __!

     Fill in the blank:  it could be your contact, your iPhone, your keys or your mind, for that matter!  Has anyone ever said this to you?  Have you ever had said this to anyone?  The world you live in skids to a halt when you have lost something.  Now, is that something just any ol' thing?  Not usually.  The sound of screeching brakes occurs when you lose something valuable.  Now, the two parables in Luke 15 that we have explored--the Prodigal Son and the Lost Sheep--are spoken by Jesus in this setting: "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.'”  The NIV Study Bible says that when you eat with people, you are recognizing them and accepting them.  This is the reason for the muttering--Jesus is acknowledging the very people that the Pharisees and teachers disdain.  What's interesting is that Jesus shares three parables with a common theme:  something/someone valuable is lost, then found and then celebrated over.  We have looked at the sheep and the son--let's finish up with the coin.
     How often do we not value something until it is lost?  To quote an old 60's song: "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."  So true.  But valuing goes both ways:  Our prodigal son didn't value his father's love until he was eating pig food.  But the father valued his son immensely and waited patiently until the son returned.  The older brother in the parable didn't value his younger brother nor his father's love. But the father valued the older son and made everything he had available to the older son.
     The shepherd with the lost sheep valued it and was willing to leave the other ninety-nine to find the one.  He then returned to the town and wanted the people to rejoice with him.  Seeing the joy in the shepherd's face perhaps made them go home and look with renewed joy in what they had.  Sometimes, others' loss reminds us of what we have and how we should value it.
     Let's look at our lady who lost her coin: “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.”

     The floors of ordinary people in Israel in Jesus' day were made of dirt.  People with money had flagstones.  The windows were few and light was minimal.  Finding a coin would not be an easy task.  So, let's see what our lady is doing... I want to make sure that my money hasn't gone missing.  There are thieves out there who want to steal what I have.  Each coin is worth day's wage and one less coin means a day's work for nothing.  I will pull out the coins from their hiding place--I will never tell where they are!--and I will sit at the table and start counting...what?  Is that neighbor's dog barking again?  Wait a minute!  Don't move!  I have lost a coin!  Did I drop it?  When I was pouring the coins out onto the table just now, did one roll off?  Oh no!  Wait, calm down.  I can't see it!  The light is terrible in here.  Let me get the lamp and start hunting.  Oh, the floor hurts my knees.  But I bound and determined to find it...
     Do you see it?  Each coin is as valuable to the woman as the next, because each coin represents a day's labor.  How did it fall to the floor?  Does it really matter now that the coin is lost?  Her concern is not because she miserly--it's because each coin represents her blood, sweat and tears and she worked hard for each coin.  Now, once she calms down, she has a plan of action:  light a lamp and start sweeping.  Two ingredients are needed here for the search and the ultimate restoration:  light and cleaning away of dirt.  
     Jesus Himself is the Plan of Action:  He is the Light we need to see our way in the darkness.  He calls Himself "The Light of the World," implying that the our earthly room is dark and needs illumination.  But with light comes revelation of just how dark the world is, how covered in dirt it is.  Here He "sweeps," looking for each valued person, who struggles in the dirt of sin and pain.  He searches for us, "carefully" as does our lady.  He looks in every corner, desiring to return us to the safety of His keeping.  Satan is a thief who desires to steal us away.  Each one of us is valued.  How do we know this?  We were "bought with a price."  Jesus Himself did a day's labor on the cross, paying once and for all for our freedom, not because we are so good and wonderful, but because He values us.  
     A coin has value because a government assigns an amount to it.  Jesus' death is the ultimate assigning of value to you and me:  He paid our debt of sin with His life and will continue to search for us until we return His Father's kingdom.  
     The heavens resound when a sinner comes home.  Jesus doesn't give up on us...nor did our lady.  She kept searching until she found it.  She didn't jingle the money bag and just focus on the ones already in her possession, ignoring the one over by the chair in the dirt.  Both are important:  the ones in the bag and the ones in the dirt.
      Remember the muttering religious leaders listening to Jesus?  Jesus is saying that all of His Father's children are important.  The ones in the "bag" need to rediscover their compassion for the ones in the "dirt."   Why?  Because you, religious leaders, are valued.  You are not valued for how good you are at church.  You are not valued for how much you tithe.  You are not valued for how much you obey the rules.  You have been assigned value by the One who "minted" you.  His image is stamped on each of you and on each of them...yes, even those "sinners" over there.    
      What about those "sinners" listening to Jesus as well?  Jesus is saying that when He reaches down and offers to lift you out of the dirt, don't roll further under the chair.   Accept His offer of restoration.  Allow Him to cleanse you of that dirt and when you join the others in the bag, rejoice and don't shrink away into a corner.  
     Finally, notice how the woman celebrates her finding of the coin.  All of her friends and neighbors are invited in to join her!  Heaven rejoices when one sinner is found, because that person realizes that lying in the dirt of life is not what a loving God would have us do.  

     The kingdom's doors swing wide open when we realize who we are--sinners.  

       We hear the songs of angels when we accept Who He is--our Savior.  

For more posts in my parable series, click here.

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