The Joyful Truth Found in the Parable of the Lost 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” (Luke 15:8-10).
The Lord Jesus has been called a master storyteller, and the Gospels are filled with His tales. In His hands, each one entertained, connected with and taught whoever heard them.
Jesus used parables in particular to reach his listeners in a powerful way. One, known as the parable of the lost coin, imparts a basic and wonderful truth about His Father’s love. It is a timeless lesson, meant to encourage us in our faith.
It’s easy, though, to read through these stories too quickly. I’ve found that slowing down and settling into a parable often brings out its deeper meaning, and what I learn sticks with me better. With that in mind, let’s explore this “Lost Coin” parable to find its treasures.
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What Is the Parable of the Lost Coin?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a parable as “a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.” Several varieties of these have developed over time, and they’ve all used everyday events and people to teach important lessons.
Mediterranean scholars and philosophers told parables for many years before Jesus. In fact, this form was used in the Old Testament. One example is found in 2 Samuel 12:1-4, after King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband.
The prophet Nathan came to the King and told the story of a rich man who brazenly takes his neighbor’s only ewe lamb. David responded quickly and from the heart:
“David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! ... Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’” (2 Samuel 12:5,7).
This little tale, delivered by God through Nathan, brought the King to his knees, and then to repentance.
Jesus utilized this method of storytelling to great effect in His ministry. The Lost Coin is an example of a similitude parable, which was when the speaker described a real-life situation that the audience could relate to. In this case, it was losing a valuable piece of silver.
The Lost Coin parable is actually one of a set of three short stories found in Luke 15. They were meant to help Jesus’ listeners learn more about the Kingdom of God. Jesus narrates a story of a woman who realizes, perhaps later in the evening, that one of her ten silver coins has gone missing. Any of His listeners would understand this woman’s anxiety. So they would agree that lighting her lamp and doing a full-scale search through the house would be logical steps to take.
After she finds it, the woman is elated. Unable to keep the news to herself, she announces the discovery to those around her, and invites them to celebrate with her.
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To Whom Is Jesus Speaking?
The audience that heard these parables came from all different segments of society, some more open-minded than others.
“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’” (Luke 15:1-2).
Jesus knew what was in everyone’s hearts, as well as doubts, questions or attitudes they held. He showed great wisdom in using this manner of reaching out to the crowd - using a familiar situation made the meaning that much more understandable to each person.
The Meaning of This Parable
The effectiveness of this story comes partly from Jesus’ choice of image. In His day, women usually received ten coins as a wedding present. Each piece held sentimental as well as monetary value, so the loss of even one was very upsetting. The woman would have felt the loss keenly, and would have been willing to go to great lengths to find her coin.
Jesus goes on to say that God sees every person as having great value. The Lord feels great sadness when anyone is lost, following the ways of the world instead of Him, and longs for them to return. The fact that He sent Jesus to Earth was proof of that. Christ claimed in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
As the story comes to a close, the woman has carefully searched until she finds the missing silver. She shares her great joy with neighbors and friends. Jesus directly compares her reaction to God and the angels rejoicing when a person repents of their sin, believes in the Son, and submits their lives to Him.
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What Are the Other Parables Jesus Tells in This Chapter?
Jesus begins this section of Chapter 15 at verse 8, with the word “Or.” This signals that something else has come before it. He has actually told one parable already, and will follow with a third before Chapter 15 is done.
Interestingly, all three stories use the same thread - something or someone has been lost, and there is great rejoicing at the end when that thing or person is found. The first story is known as “The Parable of the Lost Sheep.” This time, Jesus asked His audience to imagine they were shepherds in charge of a large herd of animals.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4).
The shepherd, like the woman with her coin, urgently searches for the one lost sheep. His greatest desire is to find it and return it to the flock. Jesus again states that heaven is full of the same gladness for every lost person who comes back.
The last of the three parables, and perhaps the best known, is “The Parable of the Lost Son.” This tells of a man whose youngest son demands his inheritance from his father. This son then goes away from home and quickly spends all the money, leaving him working for a pig farmer, hungry and humiliated.
“When he came to his senses, he said…’I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants’” (Luke 15:17,18).
But as the young man approached home, he was astonished to see his father rush to him and embrace him warmly. He was not only “returned” to his family, but a great feast was held to welcome him. This story has an extra section to it, an unhappy reaction from another family member.
“The older son became angry and refused to go in…” (Luke 15:28).
This was a caution for the Pharisees, who often looked down on sinners and considered them hopeless causes. But all of us are to let go of judging others. The father’s response again reveals God’s graciousness.
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’” (Luke 15;31-32).
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Why Angels Celebrate When a "Lost" Person Comes to Christ
Angels are one of God’s creations and have always been very interconnected with mankind. They have been messengers (Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus in Luke 1:29-33), warriors (Michael fought off another spiritual being in Daniel 10:12-14) and ministers (an angel brought Elijah food and granted him rest after he ran from Jezebel in 1 Kings 19:3-8). In each case, they worked for the good of people.
Angels and men share the deepest bond of all - worship of God. One of their own kind, Satan, was unwilling to do this, and fell from grace, so angels know how important the state of a person’s soul is. They are engaged in spiritual battles for us, and when someone submits to God, they rejoice over the victory for heaven’s side.
Why Did Jesus Tell So Many Stories About This Concept?
During the years just before Jesus came, the Pharisees and Sadducees had risen to power. The two groups joined to become the religious leadership of Jewish society. They knew the people needed to be instructed and led in their faith. Unfortunately, they used a burdensome set of laws as well as condemnation and fear to accomplish their goals. Part of why Jesus came was to lift this oppression.
Jesus often talked about the Kingdom of heaven:
- To bring hope
- To change faulty thoughts and beliefs
- To offer a fresh understanding of God
- To show God’s love and compassion
- To teach what it means to live rightly
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Should We Celebrate When Someone Comes to Christ?
While Jesus was on Earth, He celebrated when someone chose to repent and follow Him. For instance, when the tax collector Zacchaeus vowed to stop cheating the people he served and to start helping them, the Lord was clearly pleased.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”(Luke 19:9-10).
As followers of Christ, we are called to walk in His ways. That includes expressing elation as others repent. James wrote about how we can even help a brother or sister reach that point. Joining in that process will only increase our joy at the good result.
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
Why Is This Important?
One of my fondest memories as a Christian is the day I was baptized, because the congregation was so excited for me. I felt cherished by the way they rallied around and celebrated with me. I learned from that experience that my decision to follow God really did matter.
Many of those same people walked beside me as I started my journey of faith. They gently but firmly kept me accountable. And each one was a visible example of living out the kind of life I’d committed to. I’ve shared that delight when others make the choice to give their lives to Jesus. And I hope I’ve helped some of them to grow more like Him.
Reading the parables of Jesus is one effective way to learn about Godly things. And each story on its own can be a Bible study that impacts our faith. The Lost Coin should encourage us that we can always turn from sin and that God cherishes us enough to welcome us back.
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Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather's blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby! You can connect with her on her website: heatheradamsworshipwalk.com