The Lost Coin Explained
In the first parable, The Lost Sheep, Jesus likens the audience of Pharisees to unclean shepherds who have lost the sheep (us). He continues to describe the good shepherd (himself) finding and restoring the sheep (us) with joy. In The Lost Coin, Jesus likens the Pharisees to a careless woman who has lost a precious coin (likely one full day’s wage). He continues to describe the good woman (himself) who searches diligently for and finds the lost coin (us).
A sheep may wander off: a coin doesn’t! Furthermore the worth of a coin is undiminished because it is lost. A sheep, however, may be wounded or the sheep’s wool damaged. In The Prodigal Son, the third parable, the son may be messed up by his experience in the far country. But the coin loses nothing of its value by being lost. This may partially explain why Jesus chose an inanimate object to carry a theme. In human terms, “the lost“ consider themselves worthless or damaged—not so with Jesus.
Repentance equals acceptance of being found. The Pharisees, whom Jesus is addressing, meticulously tried keeping themselves righteous and justified before God. But Jesus’ point is that the Pharisees as leaders had focused so intently on their own self-righteousness that they had lost sight of directing others to God and rejoicing in their being found and restored. The Pharisees grumbled and condemned Jesus for going to the sinners. What Jesus was condemned for by the Pharisees, Jesus considered his mission—a mission he considered an honor and a joy.
What is Jesus saying in this parable?
Costly Grace: A good woman (Jesus) pays a high price to find the lost (us). Without her sustained effort the coin will be lost forever.
Sin: Humankind is likened to a lifeless coin--lost and nearly hidden on the floor of a dark room.
Repentance: The lost coin is completely inanimate and yet embodies repentance. The sheep’s bleating provides some help to the shepherd who seeks his lost one. But here the total responsibility of the rescue operation rests on the actions of the woman. Thus again repentance equals being found.
The worth of women: In the Middle Eastern culture, a speaker cannot compare a male audience to a woman without giving offense. Relatively soon after the time of Jesus, the rabbis (religious leaders like the Pharisees) would pray each day thanking God that they had not been created a woman. The Pharisee thought women were beneath men, but Jesus depicts God as a woman. In the process, Jesus elevates the worth of all women by so closely identifying himself with a woman.