Luke 15 records three parables about lostness; the second of these is about the lost coin. We are attending to Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, and his study of these parables.
The secret to parable reading is to find the point and to live it out.
Here’s the parable from Luke 15:8-10: 8 ?Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins [fn1] and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ?Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.? 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.?.
Jesus captures the gospel message, his vision of the kingdom, by sketching a woman searching for a lost coin.
A much later rabbinic parable speaks of a similar condition — if someone seeks for a coin, should they not expend the same or even more effort to find treasures in the Torah? (Song Rabbah 1.1.9).
As I have previously mentioned, the great value of Klyne’s book is that it doesn’t do everything for you; instead, it sketches issues and provides data and asks questions and lets the interpreter make up her or his mind. Snodgrass provides interesting stuff about houses — windows were small, dark interior common, searching for coins not unusual.
The point is clear: God seeks for sinners as this woman seeks for a lost coin. The use of a woman is not so much a symbol (God is feminine) as an analogy: God’s behavior is just like this woman’s behavior.
Here are some good points; Klyne is good at debunking nonsense that many find in parables, and the commonsense of this book is its strength: “This parable does not liken human sin to lifeless coin, nor does it carry an atonement theology, and the candle is not the divine light. Nor is the parable a burlesque with the kingdom scandalously presented as an unclean woman searching for something of little intrinsic value. The woman is not implicitly blamed that the coin is lost, and certainly the coin is not” (115). I wish more parable interpreters had this much sense.
“The woman’s searching is an analogy of God’s initiative and diligence in seeking to recover his people. The verbs of action … she seeks carefully, and her persistence…” … these are the focal points of the parable.
“The kingdom comes with limitless grace, even for those that others denigrate” (116).
“If that is the character of our God, it should be our own character as well” (116).