Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (New King James Version, Luke 15:8-10).
When studying familiar passages such as the parables of Luke 15--the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son--we risk falling into the trap of studying the Bible while already prejudiced to the conclusions drawn from the reading. In other words, certain passages can be so familiar that we no longer seek new truths in “tired, old” passages. Instead, our expectations cause us to prejudge the spiritual lessons drawn from said passages such that we forgo new blessings gained from reading familiar Scriptures with a heart open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
While reading the parables of Luke 15, there are a number of “prejudiced conclusions” we often make. For example, we see that though the sheep knows it is lost, the coin is ignorant of its lost state. Also, the sheep is lost outside the fold while the coin is lost inside the house. The interplay of these comparisons also appears in the parable of the prodigal son: the wayward younger son knows that he is lost outside his father’s house, while the elder brother is unaware that despite his years of apparent loyalty, he is himself lost within his father’s house. Both brothers are lost and need to be saved.
Collectively, the three parables reveal two common themes: 1) the church, which is represented by the sheepfold, the woman’s and the father’s houses respectively, is a haven for the lost and 2) regardless of one’s position relative to the church, all are lost and need salvation.
Although not explicitly stated in the passage, the type of coin lost by the woman--a drachma, a Greek coin roughly the equivalent of a Roman denarius, worth a day’s wages--was one often used in a marriage dowry. The woman’s concern for the coin likely stemmed not only from the loss of one-tenth of her wealth, but from the loss of her eligibility for marriage. While finding the coin in itself is a happy occurrence, it is more likely the restoration of the dowry and with it, eligibility for marriage, which brings the woman cause for celebration.
Going beyond the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the two lost sons, we must not overlook the plight of the woman herself. Unlike the lost sheep and the two lost sons, the coin did not lose itself. The woman has somehow failed in her responsibility to safeguard her belongings. In this parable, it is not only the coin that is lost, but the woman herself needs to change what she is doing so that she will not lose the coin again. Let us examine the parable of the lost coin from a new perspective; let us read this passage from the perspective of the woman who lost the coin.
In prophetic applications, a woman represents the church (Jeremiah 6:2, 2 Corinthians 11:2). When applied to the lost coin parable, this analogy reveals a number of spiritual lessons:
- The house is dark: The woman lost her coin partly because her lamp is unlit. The light of God's word, which is a lamp unto thy feet and a light unto thy path (Psalm 119:105), is not shining with power as it should.
- The house is dirty: A lighted lamp reveals the second reason the coin is lost – the house contains dirt that needs to be swept out. A revival of present truth brings with it a reproof of the filth in the church – the sin and worldly influences – whose removal brings about reformation. As of yet, the sanctuary is not fully cleansed. The church needs to move forward in laying aside every burden of sin that easily ensnares so that it may truly be clean.
- The church needs to search carefully to reclaim the “lost coins” in God's house. Many of God’s followers do not know they are lost. These are not only God's people within the church who have not yet fully awoken to their God-given responsibilities; these are also the people of the "invisible" remnant outside the church who need to be called out of the world.
“It is Christ dwelling in the soul that gives us spiritual power, and makes us channels of light. The more light we have, the more we can impart to others around us. As we behold Him in His purity, we discern more clearly our own faults of character. We yearn after Him, and for that fullness that is in Him, and that shines out in the perfection of His heavenly character; and by beholding we become changed into His image” (White, Lift Him Up, p. 266). When Christ dwells in us, we become channels of His light, by beholding Him we discern our faults and become changed into His image, and we impart His light to others.
The woman in the parable of the lost coin recalls us to another woman, a church, who also lacks three things. “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (Revelation 3:18).
The three items that the Laodicean church lacks correlate with the three actions the woman needs to take in the parable of the lost coin:
- With eye salve--spiritual discernment--the church will truly see the light of God's truth.
- When the house is swept clean, the church will keep her white garments clean. She will endure in the white raiment of Christ’s righteousness.
- With the true gold of faith, from which flows righteous works, the church will labor diligently for those that are lost.
After the church accomplishes these three tasks, she, like the woman of the parable, will be ready for her marriage. She will be truly ready for the triumphal return of her groom, Jesus Christ our Lord.