The high chair that my kids use at the dinner table is a prime example of the modern proverb, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” It was gifted to us by another family who picked it up off the side of the road right before their town’s bulk trash pick-up day. Is the high chair perfect? It’s missing some pieces and has seen plenty of action in its tours of duty, but it is made of solid wood and sturdy plastic. Even if it was trash to someone else, it is a treasure to us because it will easily outlast our need for it.
This proverb is another way to conceptualize the interplay between the giver and the gift as it pertains to the spread of the gospel. Back in Acts 1, before Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, he declared to his disciples that, after receiving the Spirit, they would carry his testimony from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Specifically, Jesus told them: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Act 1:8 ESV).
As far as the first declaration of Christ is concerned, the disciples have certainly received power. We have also been tracking their testimony in Jerusalem up to this point in the book of Acts. But now, in Acts 8, we see the fulfillment of the next part of Christ’s statement that the disciples will be his witnesses in all Judea and Samaria. Except, as is so often the case in Scripture, this happens in an unexpected way, namely through the rise of persecution against the church.
And here is where the modern proverb comes into play. The outbreak of persecution against the church reflects the valuation of Christ by many people in Jerusalem. He is not worth keeping, and so he gets put out on the side of the road to be collected as garbage. And yet, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When Philip takes the gospel to Samaria, the Samaritans see the value of Christ that many in Jerusalem couldn’t see. To put this idea in the framework of today’s sermon, the rejection of the giver in Jerusalem leads to the expansion of the gift in all Judea and Samaria.
Christ himself had foreshadowed this happening in his own ministry. In fact, Luke is the one who records Jesus’ parable of the Great Dinner in Luke 14. In that parable, Jesus tells us that a man once gave a great banquet and invited many to come and feast with him, but those whom he invited gave various excuses for turning him down. Note here that the offense is against the man and not his feast! And yet, these rejections lead to the expansion of the invitation, to the point that the master says to his servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23 ESV). So, the rejection of the giver leads to the expansion of the gift. One man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure.
But that’s not the end of the story. Sometimes, this change in value from trash to treasure prompts a reconsideration by the first party. Maybe your kid’s friend comes over and starts to play with a long-neglected toy. All of a sudden, that toy finds new life in the house as your kid also starts to play with it. What once was “trash” has again become “treasure.” When we look at the conversion of Saul in Acts 9, we will see a personal example of this kind of turnaround. And again, we will witness the unexpected ways in which God works out his will in his world when Saul, the great persecutor of the church, becomes the champion of Christ and his church. What had been “trash” to Saul will become an exceedingly valuable “treasure.” And by this turnaround, the testimony of the risen Lord Jesus will reach to the ends of the earth.
To apply this personally, this should give us hope. As we share the gospel, though it may be trashed by some, Saul of Tarsus is a testimony that as long as someone has life and breath, they have an opportunity to repent of this rejection of Christ and value him as a treasure more valuable than silver and gold. Moreover, we should find hope in the unexpected ways God works. May many more see treasure where others see trash.