The Lost Coin

In Luke 15: 8–10 Jesus tells a parable with similarities to that of the lost sheep, but some key differences. Here, a woman looses a coin, then lights a candle, sweeps the house, searches diligently, and rejoices when she finds it. detail of 'Parable of the Lost Drachma', by Domenico Feti, 1618-22, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden


Just like the shepherd in the previous parable, the woman can be compared to Christ in many ways. Also like the shepherd, she doesn’t represent Christ in this parable. But who does she represent? The leaders of the Church like the shepherd? Or somebody else? In many scriptural references an unspecified woman represents the church. This comes from the symbolic imagery of the church as a woman or bride. A quick example of this recurring scriptural theme is found in Isaiah 62:5 “…as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” Jesus is the bridegroom, the church is his bride. First of all, the value of the silver coin is about a day’s labor. Remember though, that they didn’t have an 8 hour workday in those days. So the value of that coin was probably more like 10-12 hours of hard labor. Lets just say $200 in modern US money. Where did the money come from? Well most likely from the man of the house. He goes out and works, and she has the result of his 10 days hard labor. She looses one day’s worth. If the woman is the church and Christ is the husband, then his work is that of saving souls, of bringing them unto him. Thus, if we’re to put His work in mortal terms, this coin might represent a lost soul (just like the sheep) or perhaps several people, like a family. Understanding these symbolic constructs, the parable applies to all of us members of the church, perhaps even more so than that of the shepherd. With that in mind, what instruction can we pull from Christ’s parable?

Stained-glass window St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Battle Creek, MI. 1878.Lessons

It’s important to recognize that it’s the woman who lost the coin. Whatever it might have been that members of the church did, it caused the loss of this person or family. The woman obviously didn’t toss the coin around, attempting to lose it. It was an accident, but she’s responsible. Thus it could be some offense members of the church commit in ignorance, or just not taking care to keep track of this person or family. To her credit, she immediately goes about trying to correct the wrong. First she lights a candle. In other teachings, recorded earlier by Luke, Jesus states “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light” (Luke 11:33). This candle represents the light of the gospel. Our first move when we discover somebody has been lost, should be to make sure we’re shining the light of the gospel forth. The purpose is two-fold, to light our search for the person, and also to allow the person to see their way back. We should always do a self-check to ensure we’re in-line with the Savior, first. Only if we do things the Lord’s way, will we be successful in bringing people back to the gospel. Second, she sweeps the floor. Again this symbolic imagery works on at least two levels: to tidy the house and make a return more welcome, as well as to make it easier to search for the lost soul. Its another self-check of sorts, we can’t expect people to come back to the church, if its not in order and welcoming. The idea is that it was somewhat dirty which probably contributed to the coin’s loss in the first place. Now clean it will be easier to find the coin, as well as not lose it again, or lose another. Third, the woman searches diligently. Our attempts to restore the lost person, cannot be half-hearted. We must be full of faith, the spirit, and acceptance if we’re to be successful. Finally, like the shepherd, the woman rejoices with her friends and neighbors. The people whom are lost should see us rejoice over their return. They should know how great a thing it is from our example, though hopefully they feel it through the Spirit.


In his recent talk “Concern for the One,” Elder Joseph Wirthlin advises that people often become lost because they are different. They feel they don’t fit in. He explains:

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed. Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

Part of lighting the candle and sweeping the house should be making sure that we’re not exclusive. That we don’t expect people to act according to our culture and traditions. All members of the church are expected to try to follow the teachings of the gospel. However, too often members of the church feel that things must be done a certain way “because that’s how its always been done,”  when its actually something that’s founded more in culture, traditions, or habit, rather than the doctrines of Christ. In these situations it can be a great learning experience for us to break free of these limitations and and learn from the person who might feel different. Not only will we become more accepting of these unimportant differences, but perhaps also find better ways of acting and doing, when we look outside the artificial confinements of tradition and expectation. Elder Bednar recently admonished us to do something that will help immensely in shining the gospel light to find those who are lost, or becoming lost. Yet its rarely done, at least in areas I’ve lived, simply because people feel uncomfortable doing it:

Do those we serve hear us pray for them with faith and sincerity? If those we love and serve have not heard and felt the influence of our earnest prayers in their behalf, then the time to repent is now. As we emulate the example of the Savior, our prayers truly will become more meaningful. (Pray Always, Elder David A. Bednar, Oct. 2008 General Conference)

In parts 4 & 5 we’ll cover the parable of the prodigal son, and see what new things we can learn there.