A parable is a figure of speech, an extended metaphor, a story using common actions or scenarios designed to illustrate a spiritual truth, a principle, or a moral lesson. The word parable comes from the Greek word parable, which means to place beside or side by side for the purpose of comparison. A parable can usually be identified by the use of the word “like.” This was the method of teaching Jesus used most often.
The second parable in Luke chapter 15 is of the lost piece of silver or the lost coin. It is remarkably short but its meaning communicated clearly to the people of Jesus’ day.
“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? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!'”
The 10 coins or pieces of silver weren’t worth very much monetarily, but were of great sentimental value. These pieces of silver were a gift from her husband’s family, which she would put in her hair on very special occasions, such as their 25th wedding anniversary. She might wear them while her husband was away to remind her of his love. These pieces were to be worn with five pieces on each side of her head, fastened with little hooks. To lose one piece would be shameful and devastating.
It was believed that the loss of this precious coin represented the withdrawal of God’s favor from the family. It was also a cause of great grief for the husband, so much so that he might actually expel his wife from their home because of the disgrace she had brought to him. This is why she lit the lamps, diligently swept and carefully searched.
The homes at that time usually had floors of either dirt or stones and a small piece of silver the size of a quarter having fallen would be difficult to find. But she wouldn’t give up until she found it. When she did, she would invite her friends and neighbors in to rejoice with her. They would all understand the significance of finding the coin and her relief.
In the first parable in Luke 15, the one sheep left the large group and got lost. The shepherd left the 99 to find the lost one and return it to the flock. In the parable of the lost coin, it is close by, nevertheless it is lost. Only by a diligent search will it be recovered. Though it may be covered with dirt, it is still silver, and its intrinsic value has not changed.
As the sheep could represent a believer who has wandered away from the flock and gotten lost in the wilderness of the world, similarly, the lost coin could be likened to a person within the household who is lost. It could be someone in the church, bravely putting on the Sunday happy face, but struggling inside, in need of a real friend. It could be a son or daughter in a family, quietly going through the motions day after day but perplexed and uncertain about what direction their life is going. Turn on the lights and search diligently for this person, clean them off and help them to be restored and to realize their value.
When any lost person is cleansed and reunited with Jesus Christ, there is cause for rejoicing. “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”