Treasure in Jars of Clay
It‟s interesting to watch a child opening that first gift, especially when there are older children and adults watching or eagerly lending a hand. A toddler may be more fascinated by the box and may even be distracted and play with the wrapping, while older children and adults are more eager and curious about what‟s inside – the treasure inside the wrapping.
What‟s also interesting is that, as children grow older and become adults, the wrapping or outward appearance of themselves becomes more important, often at the cost of what‟s inside.
The apostle Paul offers an earthly metaphor that he uses to describe us. He calls us „clay jars‟ (NIV) or „earthen vessels‟ (MKJV) or „unadorned clay pots‟ (the Message). Ever think of yourself as a clay pot? How about a cracked clay pot – after all, we‟re not perfect? Clay pots
are easy to break, so it‟s really an image of vulnerability, isn‟t it?
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from
God and not from us… We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that
the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” [2Cor. 4:7, 10, NIV]
My wife sometimes paints clay pots. She takes something that is simple and basic, and adorns it with decorative art – whether it‟s a floral design or some interesting folk art scene of animals or a landscape. One of my favourites is a picture of just-hatched chicks – right out of
the shell. She turns an ordinary clay pot and makes it more attractive and, in my mind more valuable. On the outside the decorated pot looks beautiful, but on the inside it‟s no different then an unadorned one – just ordinary clay. Functionally, the decorated clay pot works no differently then an unpainted one. But consider what happens now that the pot is decorated –
our level of care is now substantially higher than the care for a plain one.
Yet the point the apostle Paul is making is that it‟s not the outside but inside that counts – or
more accurately, what is held inside that‟s important. A clay pot is designed to hold something. It can be used to contain and „pour out‟ something. That “something” Paul refers to is the Gospel. I like the way Eugene Peterson describes it: “We carry this precious Message
around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives” [Message pg. 441].
There are some things about the Gospel story that are just simply too amazing: ; That Jesus being God would humiliate himself – become human, live among us and die a
cruel and criminal‟s death!
; That we are saved by simply believing in Jesus as Saviour!
; And that God would entrust to us this awesome message of hope! That he would allow us,
simple, earthen vessels – vulnerable and easily broken human beings, like clay pots, - to
contain the message of sins forgiven and life forevermore! Using imagery from the
beginning of mankind: that we may contain fruit from the „tree of life‟!
As we think of gifts and participate in giving this Christmas – let‟s recognize and take a
moment to thank God that this awesome privilege is ours. Let us encourage each other as vessels that are meant to pour. Worried about running empty? Don‟t be! The Holy Spirit will keep filling us like the jar of oil that did not run dry until all the jars were filled! This precious treasure is for those whose lives come into our room – lives that we may touch! It is a lasting
treasure that has eternity in mind!
Go ahead, I dare you. See yourself as a cracked clay pot! Let the message leak out, in spite of yourself, through the cracks! Better yet, start pouring. After all, a steward not only cares (contains) but also uses (pours out) what God has entrusted to him or her, especially the greatest treasure!
Stewardly Tip: A ‘Boxing Day’ Family Project. Consider a new tradition for your family and
make space in your closets while thinking of the needs of others. Pick a time when you‟re all at home and make it a fun and giving family event. Gather those clothes, coats, shoes, appliances, toys and other items that you don‟t use or hardly use any more - items that are still
good and useful (don‟t give junk). Then bring them all to a central place in your home. Once gathered together, do take a moment to look at what you‟ve collected, join hands and surround your gift and offer a prayer of blessing on those who will eventually receive it. Then bring it away to your nearby thrift store or other distribution agency for the poor.
Readers: Share your „Stewardly Tips‟ so that we all can make better use of the resources God has entrusted to us. Submit your suggestion and your contact information so that we can acknowledge your contribution or ask for more details.
Next issue: Opening Floodgates