Everyone Has Value
Whenever I read the parable of the lost coin, I think back to my teenage years. Like most youths, my sister and I lost our toys, keys, and homework assignments. Since our father was a stay-at-home dad, we often asked him, “Hey, Dad, have you seen my keys?”
After all these years, I can still hear his response echo throughout our small 900-square-foot home. He would say, “No, but I bet if you cleaned up, you would find them.”
More often than not, he was right. After I had cleaned up my bedroom, the living room, and my car, I not only found my keys but noticed the time spent cleaning the physical spaces had also restored emotional and spiritual spaces too. Sometimes it takes losing something to notice the mess in the corners of our homes and hearts. We need time to recenter our lives and reclaim joy again.
The parable of the lost coin is found only in the Gospel of Luke. In the story, a woman who had ten silver coins lost one of them. She lit a candle, swept the dusty floors, and searched until the lost coin was found. During that era, a silver coin was the value of a day’s wage, so ten coins would not have been a significant sum of money.
According to R. Alan Culpepper, the spiritual lesson of this parable is lost if the coin had been of great value. Who would not search for a lost fortune? But the parable points to the human reaction to cherish what is lost, even if it is of lesser value than what one still possesses.
Applying Culpepper’s reflection, I devalued the lost coin to a mere penny. In my mind’s eye, I wondered who would sacrifice resources to light a candle, expend energy to sweep a floor, or spend time to search until one penny was found. Certainly, a person's resources, energy, and time are worth more than a penny. But what if that lost item were a person, a child of God? Regardless of a person’s accumulation of wealth or sin, our Creator holds each person with great value and deep worth.
In this parable, Jesus taught the Pharisees and scribes to place their energy not in judging others but rather in searching and rejoicing until every lost and repentant soul was found. In this search and rescue mission, a person must rely on Jesus, our Good Shepherd, and might need to clean up some spaces along the way.
Because of our differing personalities, we all approach searching, cleaning, and decluttering from different perspectives. As a perfectionist, I love a decluttering project; however, I realize the task does not excite everyone in the same way. Decluttering can bring great fear to some people because they recognize that cleaning their physical spaces might also affect some of their emotional and spiritual spaces too.
I once knew a woman who kept nearly everything. She kept every opened envelope and every used sticky note. Over the years, the woman spoke about her life and shared stories about significant loss. She was an only child and did not have children. She lost her immediate family members and her greatest support system when her parents died. When her husband abandoned her, she lost her home and most of her belongings. Although she endured significant loss, she survived. She trusted God and remained joyful.
After losing her home, she stayed in a temporary shelter and secured two jobs. Eventually, she found a supportive faith community, a new place to call home, and a loving companion to marry. To this day, she remains one of the most joyful women I have ever known. Although she had lost everything from belongings to close family members, she did not lose her joy. She kept many things, but she did not hold onto resentment or judgment. She taught me the joy of forgiveness and the value of every life, every space, and every sticky note. She taught me how it feels to be found.
In cleaning the corners of our homes and hearts, may we recognize that every space and every person hold value and worth. Alongside our Good Shepherd, may we notice the losses, search for them, and rejoice whenever they are found.