Monday, May 2, 2011

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure

"One man's trash is another man's treasure."

At least that's how the saying goes, anyway. I remember when I was a kid riding through the neighborhood with my dad, and sinking low into the seat as I watch him pull over to inspect what someone had put out to the curb as trash. Now, to be fair this wasn't their regular household trash, but things like an old entertainment center, an old TV, or perhaps a coffee table. I thought to myself that maybe they were items that they had tried to offload in a yard sale the previous weekend, but nobody bought them, and they just wanted to get rid of it. At least that's what I told myself in order to make myself feel better.

I vaguely remember it always looking something like this.
My dad was a pro at it, too! It didn't matter what was on the side of the road, my dad could get it home. And in one trip, guaranteed. You could put him in a Pinto with a wife and three kids and he'd still be able to get an entire bedroom suit home, including a set of bunk beds. That may be an exaggeration, but not by much. The funny thing is, that growing up I thought that he was the only person alive who ever did something like that. Come to find out, it's a very common practice! Though, I didn't know this until I met my wife and found out her dad does the same thing! "Hallelujah!" I thought to myself. What a sigh of relief! Sure, my dad was still weird, but he was not alone in his weirdness! The bad news was, now I had to deal with riding down the road with a father-in-law who stops at piles. And the tradition was passed on to Jen's younger brother, David. In fact, as I write this, my guest bedroom (which used to belong to David when he lived with us) still houses a couple of these "recycled" items that he had picked up throughout his college years.

Just yesterday, I was out talking with my neighbors who had just cleared out their garage and made a "junk pile" out by the curb to be picked up at trash day. As we spent the afternoon talking, at least two vehicles driving by stopped to check out what was in the pile. However, this is not something new, something thought up by people who live in a society of over-abundance. In fact, it has been going on for hundreds of years.

The scene was early 1500's Europe, around the time Martin Luther was sending his translation of the Bible to the printing presses. It's in this period of Europe when a young typesetter's daughter was playing in her father's shop. As she played, she came across a crumbled up piece of paper that had the words, "for God so loved the world that He gave". No ending was given, no conclusion, no completion of the thought. The sentence simply was not finished.

The sentence was not finished, but what was said changed this little girl. With little knowledge of God, or of His Word, she had grown up terribly afraid of God. Yet, there she stood, holding the words that made that fear seem... unnecessary. Suddenly, she felt an ease come over her in regards to God. The little girl stuck that piece of paper in her pocket and ran home.

When she arrived, she pulled the paper out of her pocket and showed her mother. Her mother, like her daughter, had very little knowledge of God or His word. However, the mother read the words anyway. 

"For God so loved the world that He gave" 

Again, no completion of thought. No ending to the sentence. No ending to this sentence left the mother baffled. Confused, she asked her daughter, "Well? What was it that He gave?" The daughter simply smiled at her mother and replied, "I don't know, but whatever it was, it must've been wonderful, because He loves us."

How much simpler can you make the Gospel message? The entire life-no, world-changing Gospel message was summed up for this little girl, found on a piece of paper that had been crumbled up and discarded by her typesetter father. Where he surely read a mistake or a typo, she read a message of hope and love.

And she was changed forever by it.

The fact of the matter is that God doesn't have to give us anything. However, He loves us so much that He gave the most precious gift that any parent could ever dream of parting with-His beloved Son. I wonder what the mother would have thought if she had been able to read the rest of John 3:16? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not parish but have everlasting life." I suppose I'll never really know the answer to that question, though I can speculate that, being a parent herself, the significance of what was given would not have been lost on her.

What I do know though is two things:

1) The act of carrying home another person's trash started hundreds of years before my dad did it, and;

2) Sometimes, one persons trash truly can be a treasure. A treasure that has the power to change lives. 

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