“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?”
Who’s to blame for the lost coin? Interesting question, no? Because clearly the coin cannot be held culpable for getting lost. It’s an inanimate object. If with the sheep analogy, Jesus tempered the culpability of the lost one a bit – because when sheep get lost it’s what they do – with the coin analogy there’s no ambiguity. Coins have no conscious involvement in their getting lost.
The only thing they have is value.
What is the Lord telling us with this analogy? And for those who say, “Well, Jesus also compares man to the lost son, who very definitely had culpability,” keep in mind the words used to describe him. The father says, “He was lost, now he is found. He was dead, now he’s alive.” Dead things and lost things are things passively acted upon. If anything, Jesus is teaching that the lost son’s “coming to himself” was really not so much of a focus. He was dead and lost until the father ran out and reclaimed him into the family. Again, the son’s “repentance” meant abandoning his status as a son and assuming the status of a servant. What kind of repentance is that? Certainly not one that ends up in the household of faith.
We’ve probed in previous devotions how the focus of these parables should be the action and work of the finder. We love him because He first loved us. He grants us repentance and faith. If we are saved, it’s all His doing.
But let us unpack this idea of the coin, the inanimate, unconscious item which is found. What are some of the inanimate, unconscious items in the Bible which are enlivened (found) by God?
First, there’s Adam, the pile of mud made into a man. Eve was made from a bone. There’s the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. Jesus says of the stones on Palm Sunday, “ “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” Finally, St. Paul writes, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
In church life today, we can think of infants being baptized, or the severely mentally disabled going to communion, or those with Alzheimer’s receiving communion. They’re like coins. They have value, but no conscious involvement in their faith.
How wonderful Jesus used the analogy of the coin. Because how often are we those coins? We have value, because God created us, but beyond that, we do nothing but become acted upon.
We can analyze the lamb’s wandering away. We can probe the psychology behind the lost son’s “coming to himself.” But the coin just sits there, all in its silver glory and value, waiting to be found. It’s not unlike the treasure, lost (hidden) in the ground, having been buried there, and Jesus gives up everything, including His life, in order to find redeem that ground, that creation, that earth, and so have all the lost treasures – all those bones returning slowly to the dust – and repossess them.
Maybe here and there one may be a lamb, or the son. But one thing is for certain, the coin is far truer to what we are for so much of our history, particularly in that period after our death when we’re awaiting the Lord Jesus. How good to know He’s prepared to scour the earth to find us.