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“Or what woman who has 10 silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls her women friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”(Luke 15:8-10, HCSB)

When the religious elite criticized Jesus for associating with notorious sinners, He responded by telling several parables that illustrate God’s love for the lost. The first story revolved around a shepherd who had lost one sheep out of a hundred. The second story spoke to the world of women and described a situation that would not have been uncommon in Jesus’ day.

The Search

If a woman were to lose one coin out of ten, she would have to find the missing money as soon as possible. Many women wore coins as necklaces that were a sign of their marriage vows. Losing a coin would not only affect her financially, but socially she could be embarrassed too.

The woman in Jesus’ story used a lamp to aid in the search for the missing coin. The windows were small, narrow slats in the wall near the roof that let in little light. Sweeping would have to play a part in the search as well, since the floor would often contain ridges in which a coin could easily get lodged. Jesus describes how this housewife diligently persists in doing all that is necessary to find her lost coin.

Just as the housewife sought for her missing coin, so God seeks out the lost, those who have rebelled against Him and His ways. He does not shrug His shoulders at the thought of one missing person. He stretches out His arms, ready to sacrifice Himself to bring back the lost soul in need of Him.

The woman in Jesus’ story stands as a beautiful picture for God – especially as she does whatever it takes to find the missing coin. She reminds us of how God has done all that was necessary to bring us salvation. The woman didn’t hire someone to do the hard work of seeking. Neither did God put the burden of restoring His creation onto the shoulders of anyone else. He paid the price so we could be free.

The Celebration

The woman in Jesus’ story calls for a grand celebration once she has found her lost coin. She invites her neighbors over for a party – a celebration that Jesus compares with the joy of the angels over one sinner who repents and is found by God.

Instead of criticizing Jesus for celebrating the change of life wrought in those deemed “unworthy,” the Pharisees and scribes should have been rejoicing in what God was doing. Jesus made it clear on other occasions that there is a time for fasting and a time for rejoicing. Now that He, as the Bridegroom, was visiting His people, ushering in the kingdom of God, fasting was inappropriate. It was time to rejoice in what God was doing among His people. The promises to Israel were finally being fulfilled!

But by welcoming to His table of fellowship those labeled “unclean” according to the Jewish law, Jesus appeared to be celebrating the coming of the kingdom with all the wrong people. He didn’t bow to the religious elite; instead, He was proclaiming the good news of the kingdom among the poor, the vulnerable, the outcasts, those who had compromised with Rome or who had been living in sin. The change brought about in these lives through “repentance” (the turning away from sin to the way of life Jesus demanded) was the reason for celebration. God was indeed setting the captives free, even if all this was happening in ways the religious people of Jesus’ day had not expected.

The Challenge

This story challenges me. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude when I consider how God lovingly pursued me. But this story reminds me of my need to have the same missionary heart that God has.

How can we recapture the sense of Jesus’ love and mission to the outcasts of our society?

Are we ready to proclaim the good news of His kingship to all categories of people, even if we face criticism from our fellow church members?

Jesus’ story about the lost coin teaches an important truth: the appropriate response to God’s saving work is rejoicing. Let’s make sure we’re not staying comfortable on the sidelines of criticism while missing our opportunity to join in God’s joyful work of seeking out the lost.

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One thought on “God’s Heart for the Lost”

  1. So what would you suggest is the analogue in our time for this story? There’s a lot of criticism going around the Christian blogosphere lately, some of which has been sinful and some of which has been prophetic. But I have not recently heard Christians being criticized for associating with sinners. Most of the criticism I’ve heard has been leveled against ideologies that some people see as theologically essential but others see as stumbling blocks to evangelism. But I get your larger point that people spend too much time arguing and not enough time seeking out the lost.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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