What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
That statement is from Luke 15:8. Actually, my answer to the Lord's rhetorical question has always been no. I do not know such a woman. Not one who does all three things as stated. I can see why the woman lights the lamp (it is dark) and seeks diligently until she finds it (it is worth something). But I can't see why she decides to sweep the house in the middle of searching for a coin! And clearly late in the day or more likely at night!
As someone who grew up in a village, I struggle to even imagine these three actions taking place at once! The reason is obvious. Sweeping takes time and distracts from the purpose of searching. But not only that if it is not done properly, depending on what we are looking for, it even leads to mistakenly throwing away other things!
And yet this woman in the Lord's statement does just that. Has the Lord just included it for rhetorical flourish? Just as a piece of unnecessary detail that keeps the story flowing and helps us focus on the bigger point of his parable? Perhaps, but I am more inclined to think that the brevity of the parable (one the shortest parables) and the authorship alone are enough for us to take time out and ponder a bit further. Words in this parable appear to matter significantly.
Why is this woman sweeping? Is she killing two birds with one stone? Or is the woman too unfocused? And what is she sweeping? The answer of course is that the house is dirty. We sweep to clean dust. The lost coin is among the dirt. It is a dirty house and in need of a good broom. This woman not only wishes to find the coin but bring order and cleanliness to her house.
The house here represents God's world. The image of God as a woman looking for a coin is one of a God who pursues the lost sinner against all odds. The image of a woman sweeping the house therefore becomes an image of a God who passionately seeks to save the sinner and has time for dealing with the dirt or scum of the earth. God is in every sense of the word is the ultimate cleaner or street sweeper! And this is precisely what God says through Zephaniah in his opening words of the prophecy :
I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” says the Lord. “I will sweep away people and animals alike. I will sweep away the birds of the sky and the fish in the sea. I will reduce the wicked to heaps of rubble, and I will wipe humanity from the face of the earth,” says the Lord. (Zephaniah 1:2, 3)
But lest we think it is all just about sweeping, God ends by saying through Zephaniah :
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. On that day I will gather you together and bring you home again. I will give you a good name, a name of distinction, among all the nations of the earth, as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Zephaniah 3:17, 20)
Like the woman in the lost coin, the God of Zephaniah saves and rejoices over His people with songs! And yet He is also the God who sweeps away the wicked. Next time you see your mother or sister or wife cleaning the house, it must be a reminder of this great God who sweeps the rubble of sin away. And yes, even street cleaners and bin collectors are images of a God who will one day clean our world and make all things new.
Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013