The number ten in the Bible is considered by some to signify a completed course of time or completeness in divine order. Here are some places where the number 10 appears in the Bible – in the creation story the term ‘God said’ appears 10 times in Genesis chapter 1; the tithe to be given to God is a tenth of one’s income; God brought 10 plagues on Egypt and gave Moses 10 commandments; Jesus healed 10 lepers and told several parables which focus on the number 10: 10 virgins (Mt 25:1-13), 10 coins (Luke 15:8-10), 10 minas (Luke 19:11-27).
The parable about the ten coins (or ‘the parable of the lost coin’ as it is normally referred to) in Luke 15 is a very short parable which always brings a few questions to my mind. Here’s the story Jesus told;
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”. (New International Version)
I know this parable is speaking about God’s quest for the lost and how He searches for the lost to win them back (and I’ll come to that shortly). Yet there are other reflections that this parable brings to my mind. Here’s the question I ask myself “What if she didn’t bother to search for the lost coin because it was just one coin and she still had 9 coins left?” There is a way that what we still have can make us be complacent about what we have lost and so make us not seek diligently to have it recovered. She wouldn’t have searched so carefully until she found the one lost coin if she had complacently felt ‘Well I still have nine coins’.
I see this complacency in my life at times. There are times when I notice that I am no longer as fervent spiritually as I was in the past, but then I console myself with the thought that I am still very fervent. I feel that by all consideration I am still on fire for the Lord. But that’s not the point. It’s not what I still have that the Spirit is trying to show me but rather what I have lost. But complacency – a satisfaction with what I still have – makes me not search carefully to recover what I have lost. And there is usually a downward slide from there. Slumbering in spiritual complacency I lose ‘one coin’ after another of my spiritual fervency while I keep consoling myself with what I still have left until I find I am now lukewarm! So the challenge that the woman in this parable gives me (as she lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully until she finds the lost coin) is that the only way to maintain spiritual fervency is never to be satisfied to be less fervent today than I was yesterday. That I must not be careless about my spiritual life but seek to hunger and thirst for Jesus today more than I did yesterday.
Now to the matter of winning the lost, I feel that this same complacency often limits the zeal that churches and individual believers give to God’s heart to search for and win the lost at all cost. It is so easy to be satisfied with the thousands that are already in our churches that we fail to be bothered by those who are still lost. It is so easy to let the fact that there are so many churches in our neighbourhood make us fail to see and be troubled by the fact that there are still many parts of our world where there are villages, towns and whole ethnic groups without churches. Yet this parable teaches us that even if 90% of the world has been won to Christ, God will not be satisfied until the remaining 10% is also reached. Let this woman and her ten coins challenge us and stir us to action to search for and win the lost at any cost.