Monday, May 30, 2022

OH NO! It's GONE! Parable of The Lost Coin

"Or what woman, if she had ten drachma [two days’ wage for a fieldworker] coins, if she lost one drachma coin, wouldn’t light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she found it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost.’ Even so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner repenting.”  (Luke 15:8-10 WEB)

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.

Three is the number of perfection in the Bible. It is little wonder that Jesus tells us the same idea three times—these stories deftly illustrate God’s perfect love for us.

We have looked for the son to come home and the sheep to be found. Now, let’s look for a coin.

Fill in the blank: You could have lost your contact lens, your iPhone, your keys or your mind, for that matter!

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.

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 what we have.

A woman has ten silver coins. One goes missing. Does she say, “No worries. I still have the other nine.” No.

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. No matter what her economic status was, finding a coin in a dimly lit house would not be an easy task.

So, let's listen in to what our lady is doing right before she notices the missing coin…

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? What happened to it? Does it really matter how that the coin got lost?

Her concern is not because she miserly. It's because each coin represents her labor. We don’t know what her profession is, but imagine losing your paycheck. She just can’t go to her employer or back to the marketplace, and asked to be paid again. There is no safety net in the first century.

She has 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 provides what we need for restoration. He is the Light we need to see our way in the darkness. He calls Himself "The Light of the World," (John 9:5) implying that our earthly room is dark and needs illumination.

But with light comes revelation of just how dark the world is and 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, always on the prowl and wants nothing less than to steal us out of our fellowship with God. Each one of us is valued. How do we know this? We were "bought with a price." (1 Cor. 6:20) 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 home. Home is 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 covered in 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? 

You, yes, know how much dirt covers you.  I am reaching down and offering to lift you out of the dirt.  Please don't roll further under the chair. Accept My offer of restoration. Allow Me to cleanse you of that dirt and when you join the others in the bag, rejoice!  Heaven does! 

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.

One of the words in Hebrew for “covenant” is “lovingkindness.” Lovingkindness is how God deals with us: He is willing to send His very Son to fulfill and be the New Covenant.

Just the father looked for his son, the shepherd for his sheep, and the lady for her coin, God never stops looking for us.

Both the prodigal son and wandering sheep choose to leave home and go their own way. God will not impose His lovingkindness on us; it is not for a lack of trying. He calls to us every day we are here, but we have to listen and respond. We are not an inanimate coin, lying in the dirt with no awareness. We have been created to choose, and God encourages us to choose wisely:

Behold, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and evil. For I command you today to love Yahweh your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, that you may live and multiply, and that Yahweh your God may bless you in the land where you go in to possess it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce to you today, that you will surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you pass over the Jordan to go in to possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your descendants; to love Yahweh your God, to obey his voice, and to cling to him; for he is your life, and the length of your days; that you may dwell in the land which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.  Deut. 30:15-20 (WEB)

Just as the children of Israel, standing before the Promised Land, were given a choice to serve and be blessed or turn away and face dire consequences, we too choose how we will respond to God and His love.

Do you see yourself as valuable to Him? “Oh, yes, I do!” is perhaps your response. 

But, do you live as if you are valuable?

Do you respond, “No, not really.” So, do you live as if you are not valuable?

Either way is missing what is important to God. You are important to God. These parables show that even humans beings, as flawed as we are, still search for valuable things or people.
  • The father did not say, "Well, he’s gone. Nothin’ I can do about it. Time for a beer.”
  • The shepherd did not say, “Well, it’s only one sheep. It was kinda dumb anyway, so no loss.”
  • The woman did not say, “Yeah, money’s valuable, but I got enough. One coin ain’t gonna get me off my chair and scrounge around in the dirt. If it shows up one day, fine. But I ain’t gonna put myself out.”
If the people acted this way, we would be horrified due to their lack of compassion for something/someone other than themselves.  God is love. He thought of us so much He sent His Son to die for us. But, I can hear you saying, if God is so loving, way is there such pain?

The prodigal son went out into a world that is abusive, exploitive and manipulative.

The sheep went out into a world that is dangerous and filled with predators.

The coin fell into the dirt of the earth.

My point? The world, handed over to Satan in the Garden of Eden, is a dirty place, filled with the consequences of sin.

Good things happen to bad people.

Bad things happen to good people.

But, God is not absent from His creation. He didn’t say, after Adam and Eve sinned:
  • “Well, they are exiled from the Garden and there is nothing I can do about it.”
  • “It’s only two people. They were kinda dumb anyway, so no loss.”
  • “Yes, creation is valuable, but I am not going to leave My throne to scrounge around in human flesh and sully Myself in earth’s dirt.”
Heaven forbid. God did say,
  • “My children are exiled from My presence. I will bring them back.”
  • “Even one child lost is an affront to My love.”
  • “I will step out of the courts of Heaven and wrap Myself in their flesh. I will walk on the dirt, be mocked, betrayed, spat upon and killed. My love will show them that I will never stop seeking My children.”
Amen:  "I once was lost, but now I'm found."  That is what Jesus was seeking to point out to His audience and to us:  Being lost need not be a status, but a stepping stone. 

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