Vol. 3, No. 8
The parable of the Lost Coin is the second illustration of a three-part parable that was introduced in the preceding chapter. The sub-parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son (or the Lost Son) were spoken in a single discourse by Jesus to a single audience. Together, they form the response of Jesus to his critics, the Pharisees and the scribes (Luke 15:2). The catalyst for the unfavorable review by those religious leaders was the popularity Jesus enjoyed among Israel's spiritual untouchables, namely "the publicans and sinners" (Luke 15:1-2).
. . . the basic thrust of the parable of the lost coin concerns our attitude toward the sinner, viz., the value we place on a sinner is revealed by how diligently we search for them and by how we rejoice at their conversion!1
Like Jesus Christ, the primitive church pursued sinners. Even more, the first century church (and indeed it is the same in every generation) was comprised of sinners (1 Cor. 6:9-11). "The church of the first century was not afraid to come in contact with sinners, teach them the gospel and welcome them into their fellowships when they repented."2
Understanding somewhat the perceived value of the lost coin and surroundings in which it was lost contribute immeasurably to the word picture to which Jesus resorted in this parable. The paragraph by Neil R. Lightfoot which follows provides that necessary insight into the parable of the Lost Coin.
The coin specified by Luke was a Greek drachma, which was almost the equivalent of a Roman Denarius. It was a silver coin, and although worth by our standards less than twenty cents, it was the common wage for a day's labor. Some scholars have suggested that in this case the coin was especially valuable to the woman since it formed an ornament for her head. It was customary for Jewish women to save up ten coins and string them together for a necklace or hairdress. The ornament became a treasured possession worn as the sign of a married woman, very much like a wedding band is worn today. At any rate, whether as a part of her cherished jewelry or simply as something of monetary worth, the coin was of priceless value to the woman. That is evident from her diligent search. On missing the coin, she at once lit her little oil lamp and began to sweep. A lamp was necessary for the search even in daytime, for houses then were usually built without windows and with only one door. In the house there was no wood or stone flooring, only the packed earth covered with dried reeds and rushes. With a floor like this there were many places where a coin could be lodged. All of this made the search a difficult and trying experience and helps explain why the woman was overjoyed when she found the silver piece that had been lost.3
"Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:8-10).
Obviously, "[t]he lost coin, like the sheep of the previous parable, represents the lost sinner."4 Like the lost coin, many people are lost and are not aware that they are lost. "The soul of the sinner is 'lost silver' in the eyes of Jesus!"5
b. As the coin bore the image of Caesar (Lk. 20:24), so each lost sinner bears the image of his Creator (Gen. 1:26) in a spiritual sense. c. As a lost coin is of no use to its owner, the lost sinner can render no service to God. Though lost, however, it still has value and the owner wants it back. (Taylor) 3. The woman used every available means to locate the lost coin. So, God employs His Word, the workings of His Providence, faithful Christians, etc., for recovering His lost.6
"The woman's efforts to locate the lost piece were industrious and deliberate."7 Our efforts to convert the lost should be as feverish as though we sought lost money!
The parable of the Lost Coin illustrates that something can be lost but literally in the house all the time. Similarly, though there are myriads of lost souls to whom we need to take the Gospel, some lost souls are in our church houses. Besides non-Christians who may be present at any time, there are usually a number of Christians who are no less inactive than is a lost coin out of circulation. "III. The Lost Coin Retained Its Value, But It Was Out of Circulation."8
"The candle is the word of God, which the Church holds forth; and it is by this light that sinners are found . . ."9 Invariably, whenever manmade doctrines or gimmicks are substituted for the Gospel light, respectively: (1) It becomes impossible to discern a sinner and often a degree of universalism results. (2) By whatever carnal bait people are drawn, only more of the same will satiate and motivate them to assemble.
It is imperative that we are able to identify the lost, before we can possibly show them from God's Word how to be saved. God did not leave us without spiritual direction, whereby we can save ourselves and help others find redemption, too. The failure to evaluate ourselves, our brethren, our co-workers, neighbors, friends, acquaintances and family in light of God's Holy Word is a great disservice to ourselves and others, respecting eternity (2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Cor. 5:12-13; Jam. 5:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).
The sinner is lost until he is saved in Christ . . . The child of God is lost when he goes back into sin . . .10
There are a number of lessons that we can learn from the parable of the Lost Coin.
A. There is a state of being lost. B. God constantly seeks the lost. C. He will employ all methods consistent with His will to recover them.11
1. The woman was very anxious about the lost coin. 2. The church should be anxious about the lost members . . .12
. . . the woman went to find the piece; she did not wait for the piece to come to her. So many of the brethren expect the lost to come to them. She also used whatever resources she had available in retrieving the coin. . . . She did not entertain the possibility of not finding it. . . . Today he continues his search using the word as a "lamp" and the church as the "broom" that sweeps the cracks and corners of the world wherein may rest lost souls. . . . Christians must believe that there are many people who will yet repent, many lost who would be found. The certainty of finding the lost coin is clear in the parable . . .13
Regrettably, the Lord's church today is often unmoved by the innumerable souls with whom we come in contact who are outside of Christ. We are comfortable ("at ease in Zion," Amos 6:1) and pleased that our families and those about whom we care the most are saved. In the rest we hardly invest a passing thought.
Does the church today rejoice when a sinner repents, or is she casual, unemotional and even ignoring? . . . The most important event of any given day is not how the stock market fared, wheat congress did, who won the little league pennant or how the roast turned out, but how many sinners have been found!14
It is still true, that if Christians do not faithfully practice Christianity and take the Gospel to others, then the visible church will flounder. The continued manifestation of the Lord's church on earth is dependent upon successfully teaching others the Gospel (2 Tim. 2:2).
. . . religious people who have "no time for sinful men are out of touch with God." (Donald Guthrie, Jesus The Messiah, Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1972, p. 213) There are many lost "coins" in the world. Can Jesus Christ count on his church to "light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find" them? Or will the lost coins remain forever stolen by Satan, never to be retrieved? If we do not find them, Satan will "bank" them in hell.15
If Christians don't do it, it won't be done. Every Christian is God's mouth, hands, feet, etc., without which, by God's design, God's plan for human redemption is greatly hindered.
1 Jeffery Stevenson, "The Lost Coin,” The Parables of Our Savior, Indianapolis, Garfield Heights church of Christ, 242-243.
2 Ibid., 245.
3 Neil R. Lightfoot, The Parables of Jesus, II, Abilene, ACU Press, 26.
4 Wayne Jackson, The Parables in Profile, Stockton , CA, Wayne Jackson, 43.
5 Stevenson, 239.
6 Jackson, 43.
7 Stevenson, 239.
8 W. Gaddys Roy, Sermon Outlines on the Parables of Jesus, Anniston, AL, W. Gaddys Roy, 64.
9 R.C. Trench, Notes on the Parables of Our Lord, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 139.
10 Roy, 65.
11 Jackson, 43-44.
12 Roy, 64.
13 Stevenson, 239-240.
14 Ibid., 244-245.
15 Ibid., 245.