“Eh…It’s Just A Coin”

Good morning folks. It is Sunday and I’d like to share a faith-based message. I hope believers and non-believers alike can find something in it.

Luke 15 is an interesting chapter. It starts with the Pharisees, the Biblical “smartest men in the room,” finding fault with Jesus because He associated with “known sinners.” Suffice it to say that, in the minds of the Pharisees, this proved beyond doubt that Jesus was not the Messiah.

So Jesus responds with three parables. What I really enjoy about His parables is that they do two things at once: they reveal the inadequacy of the old way of thinking and glorify the new way of thinking. His parables never actually claim that the Old Law was wrong…just that He was offering something better.

Two of the parables he told are well-known. He began with the story of the one lost sheep and ended with the Prodigal Son. But sandwiched in between is one that is often forgotten – the story of the woman’s coin.
I like to think that Jesus told multiple stories to make the same point because He knew what the “smartest men in the room” would be thinking. For instance, at the end of the story of the lost sheep, the Pharisees probably thought (and may have even said), “But the 99 sheep you left are now without protection – the predators will destroy them.”

Ha – got you now, Jesus.

Jesus would then sigh and say, “Ok, how about this? A woman has 10 coins (drachma). She loses one (we will focus on that word “lose” in a moment). She turns the house upside-down until she finds it, and then when she does, she calls all the household and even the neighbors for a celebration.”

I imagine that the Pharisees at this point were confused. Why would anyone do that? It’s just a coin. She still has nine others. Yes, it is a shame, but was that one coin worth all that effort? That doesn’t seem like rational behavior to me.

Ha – got you now, Pharisees.

The second parable, I believe, in the most impactful one for three reasons. First, coins aren’t alive. With sheep and people, we would have a visceral reaction to the situation because they are living creatures. A coin is…a coin. Second, it exposed what the Pharisees truly believed – that “sinners” and other undesirables had no value. As long as they fell in line, they were accepted. As long as they were following the rules, all was well. But those rebels, those sinners, those non-Jews…who cares about them? Cast them out before they ruin us all. The Pharisees didn’t understand the woman’s behavior because they didn’t understand why a “lost coin” should receive any concern at all. It deserved only scorn and separation. And they certainly didn’t understand how someone claiming to be a rabbi would act that way.

But the third reason really hits me hard. Translations sometimes lose impact because of differences in the languages. Jesus uses a specific word – “apolumi” – that we translate “lose” or “lost”. Jesus uses the word in all three of these parables and also in several other passages. It is composed of two words: “apo” (meaning “away from”) and “ollumi” (meaning “fully destroy”, “cut off entirely”). The coin wasn’t just lost – it was LOST. Look at the capitalized words below:

Matthew 5:29 – “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to LOSE one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Matthew 9:17 – “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins WILL BE RUINED. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Matthew 18:14 – In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should PERISH.”

Revelation 9:11 – “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is APOLLYON (that is, Destroyer).”

Jesus was saying not that the sheep, the coin, or the son were just missing – he was saying that they were DOOMED. He is saying that the Destroyer has claimed them.

Do the parables sound different now?

When we tell others about our faith, is it, “Get with the program or get out”? Is it, “How can you be so blind?” Is it, “Be like us or we don’t have time for you”? Not WHAT we say – is that what people hear? Or do we even try at all, content to simply wave our hand and say, “eh, it’s just one coin”?

Or when we share your faith, is it because that person has such immense and incalculable value to the Kingdom and to God that they deserve every ounce of effort we can muster, not because of what they’ve done or not done, but because they are just valuable, period?

Is our faith more about preserving what we have than sharing it?

Have a great Sunday.

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