Lost & Found (Week 2)
The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10)
This is the remote for my Apple TV. For those of you unfamiliar, an Apple TV is a little box that you plug into your TV and you can watch things like YouTube or Netflix or during hockey season I can watch NHL games on it. We don’t have a cable subscription, so our Apple TV is the only way for us to watch anything on our TV.
As you can see, it’s tiny. It’s not uncommon for this little remote to slip in between two cushions on the couch or, more commonly, fall down the side of the couch and into that space between the arm and the base of the couch. Try as we might, this little remote goes missing more than we would like. And since it’s the only remote for our Apple TV, if we lose it we’re without TV until it gets found.
Which means, when we lose the remote, the entire living will get upended. Cushions will be removed, couches will be turned over, anything and everything lying around that could possibly hide the remote is picked up and examined. In short, our living room becomes a small little war zone until this remote is found.
I’m sure you’ve done the same thing with something small. You lost your keys. Or maybe you can’t find your cell phone. Or your wallet isn’t where you thought you left it. How do you respond when you lose something small but valuable? Big things are hard to lose and things that aren’t valuable we don’t put much thought into. But what do you do when you lose those small items that your world can’t function without?
This morning we’re continuing our series Lost and Found talking about the three parables Jesus tells in Luke 15 about a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. Last week we talked about the parable of the lost sheep. We talked about how that parable was referencing Old Testament notions that religious and spiritual leaders are supposed to be shepherds and how Jesus was using the parable to remind the Pharisees that it’s their responsibility to do something about lost people.
This week, as we continue the series, we turn our attention to verses 8 through 10 of Luke 15, the parable of the lost coin. If you have a Bible you can follow along with us. If not, all the Scripture and quotes we use this morning will be on the screen as well.
In Luke 15, 8 through 10, Jesus says, “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
If you were with us last week, you’ll remember the reason Jesus is telling these parables. At the beginning of Luke 15, in the opening 2 verses, we see a complaint from the Pharisees and religious leaders that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors; that he was attracting disreputable, immoral people. In response, he tells these parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son.
The interesting thing is that the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin are very similar, almost to the point of being redundant. Both involve the loss of something the owner would consider valuable, a sheep and a coin. Both put the responsibility on the owner to find what is lost. In the parable of the sheep, Jesus doesn’t say that the sheep wanders away, but that the shepherd lost the sheep. In the parable of the coin, Jesus doesn’t specify how the coin was lost, simply that it was lost. And unlike a sheep, a coin doesn’t have the ability to get up and walk away. Both parables have the person searching until they find what was lost. And both culminate in joyful celebration that what was lost has been found with Jesus equating the joy the person would feel with how God, angels and all of heaven feel when a sinner repents.
But there are also a couple major differences here. First of all, the subject of the parable is radically different. In the parable of the sheep, Jesus is talking about a shepherd. The Pharisees would have understood he was talking about them. But in this parable, Jesus is talking about a woman. And not just any woman, but a poor woman at that. He starts off the parable by saying that a woman has ten silver coins. The Greek word for silver coins would have been drachmas. A drachma was worth about a days wage for an unskilled labourer. So while a shepherd with a hundred sheep would be considered upper middle-class, a woman with only ten days wages to her name would be upon the poorest in Israel.
The first parable was directed primarily at the leaders of Israel, reinforcing that they have a responsibility to search for the lost. However, this parable would have been for the rest of the people. Had Jesus only spoken about the shepherd who lost a sheep, it would be easy for anyone who wasn’t a leader to shrug and assume they didn’t also have a responsibility. But by telling virtually identical parables, one about a wealthy shepherd and one about a poor woman, Jesus makes sure that no one has the ability to walk away assuming he was only talking to other people.
There’s a phrase in organizational leadership that gets thrown around a lot. “Everyone’s responsibility is no one’s responsibility.” The point of the phrase is that if you have too many people who could do something, then everyone assumes someone else is going to do it. So if you have three people who respond to emails sent to a specific address or five people who update your website or seven people who are responsible for stocking a shelf, then more often than not those tasks won’t get done. Everyone will assume someone else is doing it.
When it comes to organizations, I’m a big fan of that idea. Everyone’s responsibility is no one’s responsibility. But when it comes to reaching out to the lost. When it comes to searching for lost people, that’s not something we can delegate to a subcommittee or to a specific person who has the spiritual gift of evangelism. When it comes to searching for the lost, it’s all hands on deck. Everyone needs to contribute, whether you’re a shepherd/leader or if you’re a poor woman with only ten days wages to your name. The responsibility to find that which is lost starts with the leaders, but it doesn’t end with the leaders.
The other major difference with these parables is, oddly enough, how their celebration is exactly the same. Remember, the parable of the lost sheep is about a wealthy, or at least middle-class, shepherd. So it’s not terribly surprising that he would call all of his friends and neighbours together to celebrate. He can afford to throw a party. So if these were identical parables, you would expect a celebration more in line with her means.
And yet, the poor woman also throws a party. Remember, a drachma is about a days wage for an unskilled worker. Right now, the minimum wage in Nova Scotia is $10.35. So a days wage, before taxes, would be between $82-83. Which would give this woman a total net worth of rough $830. Who of you, if you had a total of $830 to your name, and you lost 10% of that, would in celebration throw a party for all of your friends and neighbours? Would you run down to Sobeys and grab some chips, some pop, maybe make some finger foods and make sure to invite everyone over to celebrate? No! Probably not. Unless you don’t have many friends, you would probably spend more than $83 on the party.
That’s essentially what’s going on in this parable. The woman loses a silver coin. She loses a days wage. Then she lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully until she finds the coin. And then, in her excitement and jubilation, she calls all of her friends and neighbours and spends more on the party than the cost of the coin she found.
This would have left the original audience a little bit confused. Who would do that? Who would search for a coin only to spend more on the celebration than the worth of the coin? But that’s exactly Jesus point. No one would. There is an inefficiency to the grace of God. When God searches for the lost—when he celebrates the return of a sinner who repents—he doesn’t do a cost analysis to determine if it was worth it.
The whole point of this parable is to emphasize that you can’t appropriately place value on lost people. That lost people matter so much that they’re worth the search. They’re worth the cost of the party afterwards.
So what does this mean for us now? How can we make an intentional effort to search for the lost? In Matthew 28 it says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This is Jesus final command to the disciples before he ascended into heaven. It’s known as the Great Commission and it’s the mission of the Church as a whole as well as every single local church. Every church needs to do two things: to go and to make disciples.
There is both an evangelism component as well as a discipleship component. Jesus doesn’t focus exclusively on evangelism. He doesn’t tell them to go and make converts; go and get people to say a prayer. Neither does he focus exclusively on discipleship. He doesn’t say, stay here and focus on being the best disciples you can be. He says go and make disciples. Go evangelize. Go seek the lost. And when you find them, make them disciples. Evangelism and discipleship are two sides of the same coin.
Now when it comes to evangelism and discipleship within the church, there are two primary philosophies. One philosophy goes something like this: The point of Sunday morning, the point of gathering together is to disciple and encourage the believer. The Sunday morning worship gathering should primarily help those who are already Christians grow in their faith. Then, those Christians can and should go out into the world and tell their friends about Jesus, evangelizing the lost. When those they are evangelizing become Christians, then we can welcome them into a Sunday morning worship experience. In this sense, the corporate experience is for discipleship while individuals take on the responsibility for evangelism.
The other philosophy would say the opposite. That philosophy would suggest that the Sunday morning experience should primarily focus on people who don’t yet know Jesus. The Sunday morning worship service should still teach, sing, pray, take communion and do all the other things we do in the service, but it should be with the understanding of helping people who don’t yet know Jesus to meet him and give their life to him. Then, after people become Christians typically through a Sunday morning worship service, they would be discipled individually through mentorship by more mature Christians or in smaller fellowship groups or Bible studies. So in this philosophy, the corporate experience is for the purpose of evangelism while individuals take on responsibility for discipleship.
These are the two philosophies. Either we collectively disciple and individually evangelize. Or we collectively evangelize and individually disciple. So which one is right? They both are. I think you could probably make a biblical case for either one. I don’t think it matters which philosophy we choose, which strategy we adopt, so much as it’s important that we have a philosophy and a strategy.
If we decide we want Sunday morning to primarily be about discipleship, great. Then let’s start teaching each other how to evangelize in one-on-one settings. Or, if we decide we want Sunday morning to be all about evangelism, then let’s structure Sunday morning for that and figure out how to disciple people through mentorship. Which philosophy we go with is less important than having a philosophy.
Now, you might be sitting here thinking, I’m not a leader in the church, so this doesn’t have anything to do with me. Yes, it does. Two weeks ago we talked about what it means to have eternal life. We talked about how eternal life, in Matthew 19, is less about living forever and more about having a deep, meaningful life. Feeling like your life has purpose. The central idea in the message was that if you want your life to have meaning and purpose it must be lived in service to others.
Now, I’m not going to say that the only way to serve others is through the church, but I will say that I’ve never found a cause more worthwhile than introducing people to the risen saviour. I’ve never found anything more satisfying than helping people meet, worship, serve and be transformed by Jesus.
In the corporate world, everyone’s responsibility is no one’s responsibility. But in the church world, we need all hands on deck. When it comes to going and making disciples, when it comes to evangelism and discipleship, when it comes to searching diligently for the lost until they’re found, we need all of us pulling together, working together, and serving together.
Lost people are worth the cost of the search. And I believe what we will find is that we become better disciples in the process.