It makes no sense to trade treasure for trinkets, but the Bible records many such examples of this. We should learn from them. “These things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” (1 Cor. 10:6 NIV). “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11 NIV).
The first such example found in the Bible of trading treasure for trinkets is that of Adam and Eve. They traded a perfect paradise for a sin-filled world. They lost the intimacy they had had with God and received only separation from him and each other. They traded relationship for mere knowledge.
But they were not the first to suffer this loss. Before their fall, Lucifer succeeded in tempting many angels to follow him in rebellion against God. They gave up heaven for hell.
Nor was this the last temptation. Satan dared even to tempt Jesus, to trade his high position in heaven as the very Son of God . . . for what? What could possibly be offered in comparison for this highest of honors?
“God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Ph. 2:9-11 NIV).
Ah! But this exaltation had not yet occurred, from an earthly point of view, when Satan tempted Jesus. Satan was offering Jesus an easy way out of the suffering he would have to undergo on the cross in order to obtain this highest place in the kingdom of God. But, of course, Jesus refused, preferring to suffer all rather than dishonor his Father in heaven. He valued his love and the relationship they had more than anything else. For this, and for the sake of those he came to save, Jesus refused to trade treasure for trinkets.
But there was another person who did succumb to the temptation to avoid suffering and persecution. That man was the disciple Peter. On the night of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, Peter three times denied knowing Jesus, in order to escape suffering and persecution. But all it took to make Peter realize the tremendous treasure he had lost was one look from Jesus.
“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Lk. 21:61,62 NIV).
If only we would take seriously these and other examples in the Bible, of trading the treasure we have in Jesus for the trinkets of sin, we would not have to cry bitterly as did Peter. But, even if we do, there is hope for us. For we have the promise of forgiveness and renewed relationship with our heavenly Father in Jesus. But it is not so with some others who traded treasure for trinkets.
Judas traded eternal life with Jesus for mere money; so did Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10). Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of food (Heb. 12:16). The angels who followed Lucifer in his rebellion against God in heaven suffered the same fate (Jude 6): They traded heaven for hell.
These are all examples of people who traded something precious for something worthless or worth something only for a moment in this world, which itself is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31). They traded the greater for the lesser.
But there is also recorded in the Bible those who, after being united with Jesus through faith and baptism, did the opposite, trading the inferior for the superior.
“Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth . . . everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life'” (Mt. 19:27-30 NIV).
Mary traded housework for listening to Jesus (Lk. 10:38-42).
The apostle Paul gave up legalistic attempts to satisfy God for the living way of Jesus (Acts 22).
Hebrews 11 heroes
All those listed in Hebrews 11 who gave up the world to gain Christ.
All of these saw that the true treasure of life is Jesus Christ and nothing that this world can offer. And so they gave up even their very lives to gain this great treasure.
“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. . . . I want to know Christ . . . and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Ph. 3:7,8,11 NIV).
“They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:11 NIV).
In this, they are like the Savior they love so much. For Jesus is their example, he who gave up all the glories of heaven to come down to earth and become one of them, so that they could go up with him to be in heaven. He gave up treasure for trinkets, so to speak, yes, but did so knowingly and because of his love for the lost. Because he has done this for them, they also give up the most costly and precious thing they possess, their very lives, for him, just as he did for them. Thus both he and those who love him are of one spirit.
“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb. 2:11 NIV).
So which is it for you? Do you cling to the trinkets of this world at the cost of your very soul? Or have you surrendered this most precious possession to the one who created it for himself? Do not trade treasure for trinkets.