The background for this parable is that tax collectors and sinners came to hear the Lord Jesus by multitudes. The scribes and Pharisees criticized him because of this.
Jesus responded to their complaints with the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10: “Or take another illustration: A woman has ten valuable silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and look in every corner of the house and sweep every nook and cranny until she finds it? And then won’t she call in her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her? In the same way there is joy in the presence of the angels of God when one sinner repents” (The Living Bible).
In this parable, Jesus portrays God’s love for people who fall into a life of sin. They are lost, disconnected from their true owner, God himself. But the owner (the Creator of the universe) does not give up on people. Instead, he compassionately searches for them, freely offering them forgiveness through his Son, Jesus Christ. He reaches out to them. And when they accept his offer, a noisy celebration breaks out in heaven. A sinner has come home; a person has been reconciled with his or her Creator.
Why does Jesus use the illustration of ten valuable silver coins in this parable? In those days Palestinian women received ten silver coins as a wedding gift. Besides their monetary value, these coins held sentimental values like that of a wedding ring, and to lose one of them would be extremely distressing.
Also, a coin has an image stamped into it of an owl, a tortoise, or a head of Pallas (Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom). The image stamped into the silver coin represents the image of God stamped into every human being.
This is the reason why Christ welcomed everyone who came to Him, because however dimmed the imprint was, that image was still there upon man as recorded in Genesis 1:26 and 1:27: Then God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness; …”; God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (NASB).
As to the coin being lost, we see a startling representation of the utter helplessness of man when he is lost to restore himself to God. This is not brought out so perfectly in the Parable of the Lost Sheep. In the story of the Prodigal Son, the other phase, man’s responsibility to repent is dwelt upon.
In the case of the lost coin, where the piece of silver falls there it must lie. It has no power to change its position, any more than we can expect the piece of money to roll back out of the corner and leap into our hands again. The whole human race would have been irretrievably lost had not Christ taken the initiative to come down to earth to save it.
In addition, a piece of money does not lose its value by being lost; so the immortal spirit of man continues to be precious in the sight of God even when separated from Him. Moreover, in time it becomes tarnished and the image imprinted upon it becomes more obscured the longer it is lost.
In conclusion, the woman here represents the church with the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the lost, i.e., to hold up the divinely-provided light. It is the duty of the Church to go into the darkest places of the world with the light of the Gospel and search and find that which was lost.