Jesus isn’t just being redundant, piling story upon story. Each one has its nuance. Here a woman has 10 silver coins, and she loses one. In an era where there were no banks, and each person was responsible to keep track of and keep safe their own cash stash, hanging safely onto one’s money was always a problem that needed to be solved. What we also need to know about the era is that the middle class was close to non-existent, with the large majority of the population being dirt poor. Dirt. The loss of a single coin (in the story, 10% of her wealth) can represent an irreplaceable loss.
Luke 15.8-10 — The Lost Coin
In the last story, the sheep wandered away, as sheep do. Here circumstances have caused the loss. That doggone coin went missing! Now where did she put that thing? Where did she see it last? We all know this scenario. Right away Jesus is painting a portrait of someone who has a vested interested. Whether it’s personal or financial, this person is going to take the loss seriously.
We know that such things depend on your point of reference. If I have $100 and lose $1, that doesn’t mean much. But I have 100 diamonds and lose 1, that’s huge. For a woman (sometimes with no means of financial support), and in their culture, losing one of 10 coins is a hurtful loss. It’s not intolerable, but since most people were poor, and 10 is not the “bank account” of a wealthy man, one coin is too much to lose. The point here: TOO MUCH TO LOSE.
“She lights a lamp.” Don’t miss the symbolism of the light. Sweep the house and search carefully. One senses the perseverance: We will not quit until it is found! It supersedes all notions of business value and places the coin on the level of personal value. Whether it’s a dollar or a diamond doesn’t matter. Go to Jesus’ true point: It’s a LIFE, and he’ll move heaven and hell, and persist until it is found.
The celebration afterwards belies the essence of what he is saying. We would find our lost item and say, “Phew. Found it.” But this lady calls her circle of friends together, and they put on their favorite music and dance the night away. The happiness is shared by more than just one individual. It’s a community of shared joy and celebration by people with common values and a sense of community, fellowship, and love for each other.
Jesus says the whole community of heaven dances the night away when each person figures it out, turns from their ways grounded and rooted in just themselves, and walks into God’s arms. As the party goes on, we read the banner on the wall: “Thank God’s he’s found; that was too much to lose.”