GNB 2.39

February 15, 2023


Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.’” (James 4.7)

Here is another example: what woman, if she has ten coins and loses one of those valuable coins, won’t light a lamp, sweep the house and search diligently until she finds it?” (Luke 15.8)


You will excuse me if I take a side trek today in these continued reflections on the “pursuit of righteousness.” These started with my mind being challenged by a song which said “God chases after us.” This led me to remember fondly the story of the father of the “prodigal sons.” When he saw his younger son returning after his failure to achieve the freedom he longed for in the world, the father leapt out of his veranda chair and ran down the stairs and down the road to meet him. He not only met him but greeted him and welcomed him home with open arms. There were no questions asked. There was no “third degree” or even that debatable interrogative “How are you doing?” which can so easily create discomfort. Instead, there was an outpouring of relief knowing that his commitment to love the Lord His God and lean not on his own understanding (or the understanding the older son thought the father should have) had born the fruit of reconciliation and redemption. In some way, it might be said “the bad penny showed up.” But, the younger son wasn’t a bad penny. If he was a coin, he would have been like the one of ten which the woman in the preceding story lost. It is that coin which came across my field of vision this morning as I read a Bible verse from one of the devotional sites I meditate on. There is no commentary on that site. There is only a verse of scripture intended to inspire and comfort. Today’s verse not only inspired me but challenged me to think more deeply in its light and in light of the reflections concerning the value of that which is lost.

The verse I am referring to is from 1 John, chapter four and verse ten: “Here is what love is: not that we have loved God but that God has loved us in sending His Son to be the kapparah [sacrifice] for our sins.” Now if you are wondering what version that verse was presented in, I will tell you it comes from the “Complete Jewish Bible.” It isn’t one that I would normally refer to but that is the version it was presented in today. I knew the verse in “English” but seeing the word kapparah sparked my desire to know more. This is what I learned. Kapparah is a symbolic ceremony practiced by some Orthodox Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur. The purpose of the ceremony was to swing an object around one’s head to symbolize the sacrifice or ransom for one’s sins. That object was typically a hen, cock or [wait for it] a coin. Imagine that, the value of that coin represented the redemption of one’s life from the grips of sin. Now, don’t rush down the road too fast thinking “oh, so you can buy salvation with a coin.” No, this was not a practice of indulgence as the Catholic Church has promoted in its history. This coin would buy a sacrifice to be offered in giving thanks for the salvation which comes from God alone. It was not the coin but the recognition that “salvation comes from the Lord.” Remember when Jesus was sitting with His disciples between two pillars that lined the temple court watching the people there as they went about their business? We know that the “business” there was about “buying and selling” sacrifices to be made either to give thanks for one’s salvation (the appropriate response) or to make a token offering to gain forgiveness for a period of time (the less appropriate response.) I say “less appropriate” because it only covered sins for a period of time. It had to be renewed continually. For the spiritual marketeers this was profitable business. Little wonder why Jesus finally had enough of what He saw there and stepped right into the middle of it all and “brought down the house” parenthetically speaking. But, I am not talking about that time when Jesus and the disciples were people watching on the sidelines of the Temple Court. Instead, I am referring to when Jesus brought the disciples’ attention to two people who approached the Treasury Box. There were a number of tithes which were required of the faithful and one of them was a contribution to the poor. Philanthropic in nature, it did allow the administrators of the Temple to give aid to those who had special needs in times of trouble. It wasn’t so much about salvation of the giver as the means of giving thanks to God for provision in their own time of need. They had been “saved,” or delivered, from a difficult time and now sought to “return thanks.”

Jesus pointed out how the rich came and “dropped” large sums of money in the treasury box. Well, He didn’t say “drop” but the intimation was that they did something to draw attention to themselves and their “gift.” You know what I am talking about: a cough, a clearing of the throat, an “oh, did you see that?,” shaking coins like they were Yahtzee dice or simply dropping a bag of coins so they made a collection sound. Jesus remarked that, while the offering would most certainly be accepted, it represented a gift out of the surplus of what they had gained. I think He might have been hinting that it was something they did not include in their ten percent tithe which should have been for the whole of what they had earned. Consequently, the purpose of the gift was less for “dough” and more for “show.” Sort of like LIttle Jack Horner who stuck his thumb in a pie and pulled out a plum and said “What a good boy am I!” No doubt, these offerings caught the attention of the leadership and garnered some special favor in the future.

Then Jesus drew the disciples’ attention away from the wealthy patrons of charity and focused it on a poor widow who approached the Treasury Box. What she did was intended to be done in secret. She desired no fanfare or acknowledgement. What she did was between her and God. She felt the need to honor God who helped her by helping others whose sitz im leben was more challenging than her own. She probably was one of those faithful children of God who actually went into her closet to pray in secret and not like the Pharisees who loved to make a big noise to be heard saying “God…. oh God… thank you, God… yes, God…. oh God….” Well, you know the type. She was not one of those type of people. Jesus had watched as she reached into her worn coin purse and pulled out two simple coins. In truth, she turned the coin purse upside down and shook out two coins. It was all she had. Okay, it may have been all she brought. Jesus recognized it, as only He could honestly do, as all she had. She gave out of her poverty with a sincere and grateful heart. The coins were worth only a few cents, in today’s reckoning, and may have well represented a tenth of one’s daily wages. Little doubt, this widow was not a working woman. What she gave to the poor was the surplus of a gift that had been made to her. Having covered her “daily” expense or debt, she gave the rest to the Temple. Jesus said, “She has given more than anyone else who had come into the Temple that day.” In other words, her coins were of great value to her because it was all she had. She could have kept them for her own need but charity begats charity; or so it should. She had started with nothing and trusted God’s provision which had been secured. Now, she put her trust in God once again to help others allowing her to continue to walk by faith and not by sight. In her sincerity for anonymity, she turned and quietly disappeared among the busy crowd. If the Temple administrators noticed her, it was probably down their noses. But, they would take the money regardless because “a penny gained is a penny to be taken.” Ahem….

Now, I am looking at the “lost coin” with a whole intense sense of value and purpose. I mentioned it might have been a part of her dowry or representative of her life’s tithe as “ten percent,” one of ten coins. But, Jesus tells the story of the “lost coin” with the same intentionality as that of the “lost sheep.” It was about redemption, salvation and reconciliation. They celebration created was to show the relief of finding that which was lost as it pointed in the direction of lost souls left to wander in the world (like the sheep) or in the darkness (like the coin.) Whether by neglect, carelessness or happenstance, lives can get lost. Sometimes people become lost because they can’t grasp their true value and put value into other things in order to gain value for themselves. To Jesus, the widow wasn’t lost at all. She was perfectly found because she had trusted God to provide. He provided, apparently, in abundance to her need, and having that need met was left with her own surplus. She contributed it all and not a portion. She was focusing her attention on her “Father in Heaven.” He should receive all the glory and honor. It wasn’t about her. It wasn’t about her contributor or patron. It was about God being God in perfect love of her. She didn’t wave the coins over her head in a symbolic call for salvation. She didn’t purchase two doves to present to the priest for a blessing of new life as did Mary and Joseph when they brought their baby Jesus to be consecrated in the Temple eight days after He was born. But, her actions spoke to the truth she believed in that her life had been made whole again. She was restored to a freedom which some debt had kept her from. This is what Jesus does for us. He was high and lifted up as a “kipparah” for our sins. He was a coin of great price. He was the acceptable offering intended not to bring God’s attention to Himself but to all those who looked to God for salvation and believed Jesus was the “way, truth and life.” So, when the woman sought the coin that was lost in the darkness and found it: she rejoiced! She brought others in to rejoice with her because “what was lost had been found.” That would have included herself. And the joy she experienced and shared was matched by that in heaven when a lost sinner was found, reconciled, redeemed and saved. You have to understand, Jesus loved the story as a stand alone verse. But, it was far more important than that. It was a lead in to the parable of the lost sons and how everyone should have responded to “that which was lost is found.”

The question for us today, mighty ones of God, is “How do we respond to such charity of foundness which God pours out on us and through us to others whose needs to be found are far greater than our own?”


Father, You have provided much for us in our daily bread. What You have provided for us in Jesus’ name as our eternal bread gives us pause for great joy, sincere humility and the desire to share such good news with all the world. We do so today not so that we are seen but that others will see You in us and through us. Amen.

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