Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8–10)

This is excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown.

New Rendition

15:8 “Or what woman having ten drachmas, if she should lose one drachma, does not kindle a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And upon finding it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the drachma which I lost.’ 10 So, I say to you, there will be joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Continuing a pattern since chapter 13, Luke offers another teaching of the Savior that no other writer preserves, enhancing his record all the more.

Moreover, Jesus’ story about the lost coin fits within a now-established pattern of emphasizing the rescue, mainly his mission to rescue. He has not come on his journey chiefly to make people feel good, or to bring them to reconsider their political and social environment, though his words occasionally carry this latter point (see the Analysis on 14:12–14 and the Note on 20:25). He has come primarily to offer deliverance, to proffer redemption. And he brings us inside a woman’s home to make his point, emphasizing the home as a place of discovery and recovery. For it is here that family members find what matters most in their lives. What is more, and different, as the stories of the lost sheep and lost coin demonstrate, the individual weighs much on an eternal scale—“there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one” (15:10; see also 3 Ne. 11:15; 17:21; 18:36; 28:12).

Commentators are correct in drawing attention to the woman’s poor condition in contrast to the moderately well-off owner of the sheep, who possesses a flock of one hundred. But the fact that Luke pairs the two stories, a feature likely from his source, continues a visible, singular pattern of pushing women forward in companion stories throughout his Gospel, beginning with Zacharias and Mary and continuing with Simeon and Anna (see 1:5–38; 2:25–38; 4:25–27, 33–39; 7:1–15; 8:1–3, 26–56; the Notes on 13:19 and 13:21; the Analysis on 13:18–21).[1] Just as impressive are Jesus’ linkages to celestial realities—“joy shall be in heaven” and “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God” (15:7, 10). For in this context we learn that God, represented in the owner and the woman, is one who seeks, who looks for the individual: the owner leaves “the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and [goes] after that which is lost” and the woman seeks the coin “diligently till she [finds it]” (15:4, 8).


15:8 ten pieces of silver: This coin is the Greek drachma, the rough equivalent of the Roman denarius, and represents the pay for a full day’s work in most parts of the Roman Empire.[2] But there may be more than meets the eye in this story. One dimension that makes sense is the woman receives this coin from her husband at the time of their wedding. Women are known to have worn such coins in their scarves as an indicator of their marriage.[3]  Hence, the coin may be tied to her own self-identity as a married woman and, perhaps, as a mother, illustrating its high personal value (see Isa. 49:18; 61:10; Jer. 2:32). Presumably, the value of the coin is less than the cost of hosting her gathered friends.

light a candle: She is lighting a wick that sticks out of a clay lamp (see the Notes on 8:16 and 11:33). Even though the amount of light is little, it will help her examine the corners of her dark home which may not have any windows, especially if it is built along the outside, defensive wall of her town and then shares sidewalls with other homes.[4]

sweep the house, and seek diligently: Jesus portrays a poor woman who, living in a home with a dirt floor, examines every surface for her valued coin.

15:9 she calleth: The verb (Greek sunkaleō), the same as in 15:6, though not common, carries the meaning of inviting guests to a meal, besides that of summoning people to a council, which cannot be the meaning here.[5]

friends and . . . neighbors: The friends and neighbors are women, as the Greek feminine definite article before “friends” illustrates.


[1] Johnson, Luke, 236; Stein, Luke, 376.

[2] Marshall, Luke, 603; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1081; Schurer, History, 2:64–65.

[3] Jeremias, Parables, 134–35; Francois Bovon thinks otherwise (Luke 2, 412).

[4] John S. Holladay Jr., “House, Israelite,” in ABD, 3:309–10.

[5] Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, 1662; BAGD, 780; TDNT, 3:496.