In the late 1990’s I took the position of principal at our local elementary school, the same school where I, and later, my three sons attended kindergarten through 6th grade. Back in my day marbles were popular, but our rules for play were not conventional. Instead of drawing circles on the pavement and shooting marbles to try to knock our competitors’ marbles out of the ring we used the entire playground as our field of play. There were no boundaries and our rules were fairly simple. One player would “shoot” his marble with his thumb out on to the playground, then the second person would follow suit, trying to land his marble within reasonable proximity of the first. Each player would take turns shooting until one person’s marble hit the other’s. The successful shooter would then take possession of his friend’s marble.
I said our rules were “fairly” simple. The complications arose when declaring whether “hunchies” were permitted, whether you could call “blockies” or not, and whether you were playing for “keepies.” Another aspect of our version of marbles was the trading that took place during non-playing time. I recall that there were numerous kinds of marbles, some more valuable than others in the eyes of the young traders. “Steelies” were considered to be worth more than the typical glass marbles. “Cateyes” were better than “clearies,”, and the “bolger” version of any marble was more valuable than the standard size. Trading for marbles was rampant on the playground, but I recall few fights where one person accused another of trading unfairly. Everyone knew the relative value of marbles to himself and to others. If you owned a lot of steelies, you could amass quite a few cateyes and bolgers if you were shrewd. Even so, when one person traded with another, each was happy because each was convinced an even, fair trade was made.
Fast forward a few decades to when I served as principal. Marbles were not the commodity of choice during the late 90’s. Instead the students were amassing paraphernalia related to the Pokemon craze that was sweeping the country. I must confess I knew little or nothing about the Pokemon world (evidently the various types of Pokemon characters are called “species,” and they are depicted on cards and other tokens). But I did know the value associated with an individual species was relative…unlike marbles, the various Pokemon species had no visible attractiveness that made one more valuable than the other. You had to know the Pokemon universe in order to know the value of an individual card or token. This meant that the Pokemon savvy students at school frequently took advantage of the less knowledgeable (typically younger) students by convincing them to trade Pokemon paraphernalia based on visual appeal rather than value. Once a student found out he’d been swindled the outcry was loud and pitiful. Teachers were spending a lot of time trying to rectify unfair trades, and an increasing amount of my time was also being absorbed. We had to outlaw all trading and, eventually, Pokemon cards and related items were banned from the building.
The idea behind trading is that both parties are aiming to conduct a fair trade, but the item(s) traded have inherent value to each individual. In the book of Proverbs, unfair or deceptive trading is frowned upon:
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.
(Proverbs 10:2 ESV)
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.
(Proverbs 11:1 ESV)
No rational person will knowingly allow himself to be cheated in a purchase, trade, or barter. We seek to better ourselves and our estate when we make trades, and the person with whom we trade has the same goal. But consider these verses from Isaiah Chapter 53, written over 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus, where Isaiah is prophesying about the coming servant redeemer who would suffer for sinners like you and me:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)
Consider this trade: He took our griefs, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities, and our chastisement. He was stricken, smitten, afflicted, pierced, crushed, and wounded in our stead. We got peace and healing. He took all the bad stuff and we got all the good stuff.
The entire chapter is filled with more details about this amazingly uneven, unfair trade. But in verse 10 it says that God was pleased to do this on our behalf. What incredible love! What amazing grace! As the writer of Hebrews exclaims in chapter 2 verse 3, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” Have you accepted this trade being offered to you…one that truly is amazingly uneven to our benefit? He is extending it to you today!