Bible Study 2.6.12, 2.9.12, 2.12.12 For Worship 2.19.12Posted: February 1, 2012
Bible Study 2.6.12, 2.9.12, 2.12.12 For Worship 2.19.12
Luke 15:8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’
10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
We cannot examine this little snippet of scripture outside of the context of the entire Chapter 15. The Chapter begins with the scribes and the Pharisees once again complaining because Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus then proceeds to tell three Parables. First is the story of the Lost Sheep and the good shepherd, who leaves the ninety-nine sheep in the flock to go look for the one that is lost. The second story is a woman who has a stash of 10 silver coins, and she loses one, and conducts a thorough search of the house until she finds the lost coin. The third story, perhaps the most eloquent of all Parables is the Prodigal Son, who leaves home, squanders his inheritance, and returns hungry, asking to be taken in by his Father. The Prodigal Son goes a step further than either the lost sheep or the lost coin, in that the elder brother in the Prodigal Son assumes the role of the scribes and Pharisees, who object to the welcoming of the lost boy. Today, however, we are focusing on the Lost Coin.
The coin mentioned by Luke was a Greek double drachma, about the same value as Roman denarius. The Roman denarius was defined as a day’s wage for a laborer in the First Century. So it might be the equivalent of say $80 to $100 today. Imagine then a poor woman who had managed to save up a little cache of $1,000. But inadvertently she had misplaced $100 of her savings. For the very poor $100 could mean the difference between eating or going hungry. With some degree of anxiety the woman initiates a search. Houses in ancient Israel were more like caves made of stones, without much natural light. So the woman lights a lamp, and sweeps the floor in search of the lost coin. When she finds it she shares her joy with others. The Parable then includes a punch line: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” This punch line parallels the last verse in the lost sheep story: “Even so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance.” The Prodigal Son story also ends with a punch line that is similar. “It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” In all three cases something lost is found and there is celebration. The Prodigal Son Story, however, is complicated by addressing the self-righteousness of the older brother, who is not happy about the return of his younger brother. In the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, repentance is presented as the solution of the lost, and the righteousness of the “unlost” is never questioned.
The key to the Story of the Lost Coin, is the meaning of “repentance” and the status of the “unlost.” Repent means to turn around. The Prodigal Son begins to turn around when he hits bottom and comes to this senses and starts for home. Now just because he has started for home doesn’t mean his motives are pure. He is hoping that maybe if he pleads, his Father will take him back as a hired servant, so he can at least get three meals a day, rather than facing the choice between eating the pig slop or starving. His motives are far from pure, but at least he is on his way home. We can also probably doubt that he has changed his ways just because his Father has extended an extravagant welcome. No the Prodigal Boy will have some issues to work through even after he has come home, not the least of which will be trying to figure out how to get along with his older brother. So repentance doesn’t mean leading a perfect life, it just means turning toward home.
And what is the status of the “unlost?” In the lost sheep and the lost coin, there is no need of repentance. But in the Prodigal Son the older brother, the unlost has some issues he needs to address also. For one his resentment toward his Father is finally revealed by the Father’s extravagant welcome of the lost boy. Turns out it seems like fear rather than devotion to his Father has kept the older brother down on the farm.
“Repentance,” according to Scott Peck, is turning to walk with God. “Who were we walking with before we repented?” asks Peck. “We were walking along, because we preferred it that way.” I think this larger notion of repentance, rather than a list of specific penances for individual sins is nearer the mark. What does it mean to be found? Finding our way back to a relationship with God.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. In this story what is lost?
2. Who is looking?
3. How is the search conducted?
4. When the object is found, who is notified?
5. What is the punch line of the story?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
Have you ever spent hours and hours looking for something? What was it? Where did you finally find it?
2. How would you rewrite this Parable for our modern context?
3. Who in our modern context does the “lost coin” represent?
4. Do you think there are “unlost” people in our society?
5. How would you envision our congregation reaching out to the lost?
6. What do you think is the process of repentance?
7. What do you think finding our way back to a relationship with God looks like?