So…part 2 of the Luke 15 parable.
Let’s remember it starts with this:
Luke 15 begins with “1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” – Luke 15:1-2
Again, I’m not claiming to have a full understanding of the depth of a teaching of Jesus. I’m just sharing some things that came across my mind while I was studying, listening to sermons, and considering the points Jesus was making.
“8 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? 9 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. 10 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
There were a few things that stood out to me as I read this parable and listened to ideas people had about this portion of the parable. Of course, my first thought was, “Why in the world would a woman get excited about a coin?” I like a discount and want to save money as much as the next person, but I can’t see myself calling all of my friends to come over and jump up and down over finding a coin! It’s just not that serious…at least, not to me. Honestly, I think most of us would have that reaction. Who’s going to throw a party over a coin? And…it’s easy to have that kind of mentality in today’s world, especially in the western world where coins have very little value (unless they’re collector’s items). Typically, a coin is not enough to buy a piece of fruit or half a cup of something to drink. So, yes, the first thing I needed to do was find out why the coin had so much value.
Value – What’s it worth to you?
Well, there are a couple theories as to why this woman is wanting to find this coin.
Let’s say the coin is a penny. I’m going to say penny because it is familiar to us and because “penny” is actually the payment used in a teaching of Christ in Matt 20. “Penny” is translated as a “denarius.” Denarius is the coin believed to be used in Luke 15:8 (coins in the Bible). Most of us will look at a penny as having almost zero value, especially when we’re told a woman is treasuring 10 pennies. But let’s think about the value of a penny during the lifetime of Christ. A penny (denarius) was approximately equal to a day’s wage. For many of us, working 10 or more days a month is enough to earn rent/house money. So, if a person’s rent is $1000/month, that person needs $100/day for 10 days straight (not figuring taxes) to earn money to pay his landlord. When it’s time to pay rent, the landlord has the legal right to start eviction process if the tenant doesn’t have the full amount of rent agreed upon in the lease/contract. So, if I look at this woman’s loss in money comparable to today’s standards, her loss becomes much more significant. She has lost money for food, utilities, or housing. Honestly, if I was missing part of my rent money or had lost the money I’d set aside for food or something important, I’d be going through my house, too!
The second possible reason she was searching for this coin is not because it was meant to pay for something but because it represented something – rather someone – already paid. I don’t like making it sound like the bride was the prize in kid’s meal, but I was referencing the dowry/bride price. It was custom for the married women to wear head coverings. Wives had a two-part covering in which there was a high cap where gold or silver coins was sewn. This was the bride’s gift and was so treasured and respected that debtors would not take coins from the wife even if the family owed money. It might be considered as precious as wedding rings are to modern wives. However, there was an even more important reason to have these coins on the headdress of the wife. If a wife was missing a coin from her headdress, her husband might think she was hiding purchases/debts from him or had even cheated on him. A husband who had discovered his wife had been unfaithful might take a coin from her headdress. (Even though the coins were in her cap, she belonged to him, which meant the coins belonged to him, also.) That means that she would feel shame and bring dishonor upon herself and/or household for her actions (although not as bad and permanent as being stoned for adultery). In this instance, she would want to find the coin because it was part of the wedding gift, would cause questions from her husband, and would invite shame from her community because there would be an obvious gap where the coin would be. This headband gives an idea of how coins might be arranged. (example)
So, we have an idea of the worth of the coin. The next thoughts brought up were about the location and how it got lost.
Again, we can speculate about this portion, too. Some suggest the coin may have been lost due to neglect, such as having all 10 pennies on a ledge and one being knocked off. I don’t believe this was the case because the coins in the headdress seems more sensible to me; however, an interesting point was made with it. Where was the coin lost? Inside the house. We have a tendency to assume that members of our household or church are where they should be with Christ because they are attending service or because they aren’t in trouble at school or something. Those who cause obvious problems (like behavioral) tend to get most of our attention, and we tend to neglect those who are quietly living life. The problem might be that we just haven’t taken time to witness to them because we assume they’re saved when they’re actually just as lost as the people in the streets! We don’t notice something is wrong until they disappear.
The other idea, which fits with every instance, is that the lost coin is the unsaved individual. Many prefer to look at this 3-part parable as showing attributes of our triune God. That would mean that the woman in this teaching represents the Holy Spirit just as Christ was represented by the shepherd in part 1. (Please, please, please just look at this as ways God acts or responds to us and not for a reason to call the Holy Spirit a girl.) The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit points people to Christ and quickens the dead (both naturally and) spiritually so that we may hear and understand the gospel and choose Christ.
Just like the sheep, this coin is lost…BUT there are some differences that stand out.
1) The coin is NOT alive. I realize that is obvious, but sometimes it helps to point out the obvious.
The coin is unable to call to the woman and yell out, “Here I am!!! Yooo hooo, down here!” The coin cannot go to the woman, which means it is also unable to make a decision to be found or remain where it is (as we tend to say when people ask sinners to come to Christ). The coin is completely unaware that it is lost! It has no idea that it is in darkness or dirt or that it is even wanted by someone greater than itself. The coin represents every sinner before he is saved.
2) The woman is the one doing the seeking to find the coin – not the coins. She does not put the other coins in the dirt and on the floor to magnetically attract or draw the coin to them as many seeker-friendly churches try. She knows that she cannot lose the coins that she has in a known location (put them in dirt or dark corners to resemble the lost coin’s state) in hopes of a lost coin finding its way to the remaining coins. The other coins stay where they are (in the light) while the other is brought to be joined to them. (The Lord draws people to Himself. If the Holy Spirit is not moving on a person’s heart to convict him, no amount of argument we have will help. It is the Holy Spirit Who convicts a person of his sin.)
Just as the shepherd went looking for the sheep, the woman searches for the coin because she knows it is unable to come to her. Note this part of verse 8, “…if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?” This woman concentrates all of her effort into finding this coin. There was no electricity to turn on a switch during that time, so if there wasn’t enough light to come through a window or had gotten darker, she had to light a candle and carry this candle with her into EVERY dark corner and area to check for this coin. She’s sweeping…possibly hoping the coin will clang against something to make some sound to indicate where it is. Maybe she’s trying to reach underneath or between an area her hand cannot reach. She’s moving papers and clothes, rearranging furniture, retracing her steps, emptying containers, and checking every inch of her home to find this coin. Some people might think, “It’s only 10%. You still have 90% and can earn enough to get another coin.” But no. This coin means something precious to her. As part of her headdress, it was a gift and a symbol of her relationship to her husband. The coins have worth, but their collective worth is priceless to her. It’s not enough to have most of the coins. She wants all of them to be where they should be. (If she doesn’t find it, someone who visits the house may find it and use it for his/her own purposes without returning it to the woman. Wouldn’t that be what the devil would do if he could?)
What I like to think about is the fact that this woman seeks until she finds it. This is not merely putting forth a good try. Her one goal is to find this coin, and her determination is such that she WILL find it. Thankfully, this is how God is with those He saves. Without the Holy Spirit to bring us out of our dead state to point us to Christ and convict us of our sin, we could not be saved. This also reminds us that it is God Who does the saving. With the sheep portion of the parable, one could argue that the sheep can call out. Seeing the coin as a continuation of Christ’s point, we see that it is God alone Who rescues us to place or restore us to where we need to be.
Time to celebrate!
Having a better understanding of the value of the penny/denarius and the significance of the coin as part of a wife’s headdress, I can see why she would call her friends and neighbors to tell them her good news. She has a personal interest in finding the coin because of monetary, reputation, or sentimental value. The others understand why this is important to the woman, so they celebrate with her. Likewise, Jesus says, angels rejoice in Heaven over one sinner that repents/is found and is now safe/saved. Souls are precious to God. Remember, the accusation was that Jesus receives sinners – makes time for them as if they’re important. He tells them that He came for the lost – sinners – as those who are already in God’s care do not need to be found.
“9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
When the woman finds the coin, it is likely dirty. If you had lost a $100 bill, would you trash it if it was crumpled up, torn, and/or dirty? No. The woman doesn’t throw away the coin because it’s dirty – maybe even filthy – because it still has worth. She’ll clean it, put it back on her headdress, and wear it with a big smile. When God saves us, we are dirty. Some of us may even believe we’re too far gone and wretched for God to want us with Him. However, like the shepherd willing to put a dirty/injured sheep on his shoulders to take it home to tend to it, God cleans us up and fixes us like we are new. That is love. God chooses us, searches for us, and restores us, which is reason to rejoice.
Lost coin – visual
Lost coin – visual (modern)
Again, I have no specific sermons for this lesson. Many are available online.
Manners and Customs of Bible Lands – link
Manners and Customs – see women’s clothing – link
Lost Coin in pictures (same images as video posted above) – link
Coins in the Bible – link