“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? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’” - Luke 15:8-9 (ESV)
The parable of the lost coin was an important reminder for the religious leaders – and the not-so-religious people of Jesus’ day. It still is.
Several years ago, I was backpacking in the Cascade Mountains in central Washington. What began as a beautiful sun-filled day suddenly turned into a dangerous situation. A thick layer of fog quickly rose from the valley, blanketing the mountain ridge I was hiking. All my reference points had dissolved in the gray mist of fog, leaving me blind.
“I’ll have to wait it out,” I calmly told myself. “Hikers, who allow fear to outdo rationale thinking, tend to end in disaster,” I reminded myself. However, realizing this, while remaining calm in the moment, isn’t all that easy.
With each passing hour, there was no change in the weather. The fog was as thick as soup. “I can’t believe I left my compass in the car”, I chided myself. With no reference points to guide me, the reality of my situation hit me full force: I’m alone, and lost!
Fear rose within me inspiring me to react by running as fast as I could – in any direction. It took all the courage I could find to resist my fear. My natural inclination was to give in to my fear-fueled emotions. I knew better. Gathering every ounce of nerve I could, I forced myself to sit against a Douglas fir tree. Then I prayed: “God, help me: I’m lost.”
For the next two hours, my lost condition was as heavy on my mind as the fog that enveloped me. Slowly, the fog began to lift. Then the rays of the sun broke through the gray mist. Within a few minutes, I saw the ragged peak of a mountaintop opposite the ridge I was walking. I shouted out loud: “That’s north!”
My fear was replaced by hope when I could clearly see my reference point.
Like in the parable of the lost coin above, a lamp had been lit and the mist was swept away. Within the brightness of the sun’s light, the fog immediately left my mind, and I could clearly see my way. I was lost, but now found.
Brilliantly, Jesus presents a metaphor to remind us that God – like the woman who seeks the coin – will relentlessly search for those who are lost because:Lost people matter to God.
Who are the lost? Religious leaders of Jesus’ time viewed tax collectors and sinners as hopelessly lost and sinful. However, Jesus frequently hung out with these unsavory folk and received considerable criticism for doing so. His association with these types of people was distasteful and uncomfortable for the pious.
Nevertheless, Jesus understands: “tax collectors and sinners” are as valuable to God, as the coin was to the woman. They deserve our respect, love, and friendship.
The Pharisees’ legalistic insistence, that everyone must follow the law, quickly becomes a line of separation in the sand: You are either with God or against God. You are like us, or you’re not. It’s always easier to live with others who think like we think, act like we act, and believe what we believe. It’s also more comfortable to forget: Like the coin, “tax collectors and sinners”, we’re also lost.
In my conversations with people, I’m noticing increased concerns for the future of our nation, the church, and our youth. There are expressions of alarm regarding the decline of morality in our society. People are aware of the divisiveness that fuels polarity and are apprehensive concerning how the growing chasm of ideologies is eroding unity. We are awakening to the reality that we are lost.
We have more questions than answers. Problems beg for solutions. Although ideas are numerous, real answers seem to elude us. Personal preference is more popular than orthodox fidelity, and nonconformity with Christian values, appears to increase in attractiveness. When I realize I’m lost, my tendency is to allow fear to dominate my life.
I’ve thought a lot about that day on the mountaintop, lost in the fog. I understand how strong fear can be and how tempting it is to give way to panic. I recognize how lost people today are prone to react to fear.
It’s increasingly common for us to sense we’re alone and lost. The dawning of this reality may happen in different ways: An unexpected termination of employment, the diagnosis of a terminal condition, an unwanted divorce, the incessant dissonance in our world, or the cultural haze, which obscures our reference points.
Like a heavy-saturating fog that disorients us, fear rises. As the hiker, overtaken by panic, many are haphazardly reacting – running aimlessly; believing that random action without a sure landmark will somehow result in a positive outcome. It doesn’t.
I hear questions every day from lost people: What’s next? What needs to happen? What hope is there in our political system? Even within the church the faithful are becoming fearful: What’s the church going to do with a culture no longer amenable to Christian standards? How can we be faithful to love the “tax collectors and sinners” without being like them?
It’s tempting to take a “hunker down mentality” and convince ourselves it’s better to stay together, separated from the world, and hold on to the end. Like the Pharisees: It’s more comfortable to live with those like us than to associate with tax collectors and sinners.
I’m thankful that Jesus – when the Pharisees were blinded by the fog of legalism and reacting to fear – maintains his reference point: Lost people matter to God. For each of us who may feel alone and lost, the parable of the lost coin reminds us – as important as the coin is to the woman: We matter to God.
If you find yourself in the fog, perhaps it would be helpful to muster the courage to wait, rather than run. Remember, God meticulously searches for those who are lost and helps us re-discover our orientation.
Re-discovering our reference point transforms fear to hope, displaces alarm with joy, and reveals how faithful God is to find those who are lost.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Lk 15:8-9.
● What concerns you? What are the areas of your life that beg for answers?
● How does fear affect you?
● Have you lost sight of your reference point?
● Is your reference point reliable?
● In the fog of uncertainty, what’s necessary for you to wait for God’s intervention? What’s needed for
you to guard panic?
● Remember, you matter to God.