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What can we learn from the lost coin parable? We miss a lot due to context and the contrast to our societal expectations in the west here today. Here you’ll see the balance Jesus had in dealing with hardened hearts, plus the wisdom, strategy, and the most effective way to shine the light. Even when it comes to Christ’s use of poetry.
I already touched on how much my source explains about poetry in Bible times. You’ll have to read the book itself to really get this subject, though. Briefly, Jesus taught men who could read but didn’t read nearly as much as the majority of us do today. And women weren’t taught to read at all unless they were extremely rich and could afford a personal tutor. So Christ’s audience was used to learning by listening, repetition and memorization much more than us. And they learned by poetry that didn’t rhyme. It contrasted and compared concepts in various patterns. Concerning the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10):
The stylistic features in this parable show a number of similarities and some differences from the Lost Sheep. There is only one stanza. The entire structure is looser in construction, shorter and simpler. The introduction is shortened to “which woman,” because to have said “which woman of you” to a group of Oriental men would have been an unpardonable insult [see more below]. The basic inversion is the same…. Luke 15:4-10 has a Form IV poetic outline…3 stanzas. Yet there is a general repetition of the structure.From Poet and Peasant & Through Peasant Eyes
CONTEXT OF THE LOST COIN
A number of cultural elements need to be noted. Rihbany makes the helpful observation that “the scarcity of money in the hands of the people makes the loss of a coin…a sad event.” Rihbany’s point is that the peasant village is, to a large extent, self-supporting, making its own cloth and growing its own food. Cash is a rare commodity. Hence the lost coin is of far greater value…than the day’s labor it represents monetarily.From Poet and Peasant & Through Peasant Eyes
It has often been observed that the coin may be a part of the woman’s jewelry or dowry…. Village women do wear coins on necklaces…the loss is more than the value of the single coin.
The movement of peasant women in the village was and is extremely limited. This woman clearly knew that the coin was in the house. She had not been out. Her diligence was prompted by…it could be found if she would keep sweeping.
In…first-century Palestine, the very use of a woman in an illustration required a moral decision. Jesus is again rejecting Pharisaic attitudes toward groups of people in society. First, it was the proscribed shepherds, now the inferior woman.
THE UNPARDONABLE INSULT: WOMEN!
See these 2 articles for the contrast of how we treat women and how women were treated in New Testament Times. Here’s more of these cultural differences:
Eastern women take no part in public life…in all cases where Jewish families faithfully observed the law. When the Jewess of Jerusalem left her house, her face was hidden by…two head veils…. It was said that once…a chief priest in Jerusalem did not recognize his own mother…. a woman was expected to remain unobserved in public. There is a recorded saying of one of the oldest scribes we know, Jose b. Johanan of Jerusalem (c.150 BC): “Talk not much with womankind,” to which was added, “They said this of a man’s own wife: how much more of his fellow’s wife!” (M. Ab. i.5). Rules of propriety forbade a man to be alone with a woman…to look at a married woman, or even to give her a greeting…. It was disgraceful for a scholar to speak with a woman in the street…. A woman who conversed…in the street could…be divorced without the payment prescribed in the marriage settlement.From Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus
It was considered preferable for a woman, and especially an unmarried girl, in general not to go out at all. Philo said: “Market places and council-halls, law-courts and gatherings, and meetings where a large number of people are assembled…with its discussions and deeds, in times of peace and of war, are proper for men…. Elsewhere Philo says that the Jewish women of Alexandria were kept in seclusion, “never even approaching the outer door…. For modesty’s sake avoided the sight of men, even of their closest relations.”
WHEN JESUS WAS “POLITICALLY CORRECT”
When Jesus spoke to hardened hearts he didn’t allow behavioral expectations to intimidate him. “Political correctness” –if you can use this expression to describe Christ’s actions–was used only when it helped Jesus to shine the light brighter. That’s why he didn’t say to the Pharisees, “which woman of you” in the parable of the lost a coin. That’s why he didn’t blast Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-50 the same as he blasted Pharisees in Matthew 23:13-36. Like a parent who feels he/she must pick their battles with their children, Jesus prioritized for effectiveness. He said if any man lusts in his heart after a woman he commits adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). He encouraged women followers, upheld respect for women, and conversed with them (some examples: Luke 10:38-42, John 4:1-30, 8:3-11, & 11:1-46).
Praise God for Christ’s perfect example!
The above “picture” is from Poet and Peasant & Through Peasant Eyes