When God Loses Something
by Jacob Hudgins
It is possible for two people to look at the same situation differently. When that happens, it can be helpful for one side to explain their perspective to the other and change their view.
This is what happens when the Pharisees criticize Jesus for his companions. “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near him to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’”(Luke 15:1-2). They see only that Jesus has evil people for his companions, which they believe taints him by association.
But Jesus offers a different perspective. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing”(Luke 15:4-5). Jesus sees this same situation—in which sinners are drawing near to listen to him—in a positive way. They are lost sheep who have been found. When they come back to the shepherd, it is a good thing. Anyone would feel this way about their sheep. God feels this way about his people.
Jesus tells two more parallel stories about things lost—a coin and a son. The fact that we might own other things—such as nine other coins or another son—doesn’t change our behavior. And our behavior when we lose things is a clue to God’s.
When God loses something, he searches for it. He is willing to “leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the one that is lost”(Luke 15:4). His heart is to “sweep the house and seek diligently”(Luke 15:8). In the story of the lost son, he sees his son “while he was still a long way off”(Luke 15:20) and runs to him. When we lose something we care about, we are not passive. Neither is God. The entire mission of Jesus can be seen in this light.
When God loses something, he rejoices when it is found. Each of these scenes has a tender moment of joy. The shepherd walks back with his sheep on his shoulders, rejoicing. The woman calls her friends together to have an impromptu “found coin” party. The father kills the fatted calf for his son. Jesus emphasizes that this is a picture of heaven: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”(Luke 15:7). It is staggering to think that mere humans could make an all-powerful God this happy.
When God loses something, he wants others to rejoice with him. In each story, the character doesn’t just rejoice. He calls others to rejoice with him (Luke 15:6, 9, 22-25). The only one who refuses is the older brother, jealous and angry of the attention given to his brother. Here we return to the Pharisees, who are completely out-of-step with God. God wants them to be excited that his children are coming home, yet they are whiny and petulant. God’s desire is that we share his heart for his lost kids.
The possibility for seeing situations in different ways continues today. We can see seekers coming to God—yet doubt their sincerity. We can resent the needs they have and the work they require. We can worry that they will embarrass us or the church. Or we can just forget about them and focus on one another. So Jesus’ words still carry the power to call us out of the spirit of the Pharisees and closer to the heart of God.