Summary: We are earthen vessels in whom God lives and through whom God is seen.
Title: Jars of Treasure
Text: II Corinthians 4:7-12
Thesis: We are “Jars of Clay” in whom God lives and through whom God is seen.
A steward is someone entrusted with the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition)
One of the things entrusted to every follower of Christ, is the knowledge of the good news that is in Jesus Christ, the presence of God, and the opportunity to be used of God. These things are placed within us in order that others may see the glorious power of God.
Our lives are “containers” or “vessels” or “jars of clay” in whom God lives and through whom God works.
In my little essay in the January Newsletter I wrote about Bonnie’s “good china.” It was handed down to her from her great grandmother. Her parents stored it for twenty years before giving it to her on the Christmas after our engagement. We keep the good china in an antique, curved-glass china hutch… Bonnie’s good china has intrinsic value in that it is rare and irreplaceable. Additionally, we have assigned considerable extrinsic value to the dishes… beyond the actual worth of the china, is the sentimental value we have attached to it. The good china is mostly for looking and is only used on very special occasions.
Our everyday dishes are considerably less valuable and are replaceable. There is little intrinsic or extrinsic value assigned to our everyday dishes. If one gets broken, there no great sense of grief of loss. We can either replace the piece or the whole set without breaking either the heart or the bank.
That is not to say that we have no regard for our everyday dishes… we don’t use them for throwing at each other in fits of rage or toss them in the air as targets for skeet shooting. We handle them carefully and take care of them and most importantly, we use them and we use them and we use them. They may be chipped, discolored, or show some hairline fracturing, but we use them every day. They are in a constant cycle of being dirtied, dish-washed, and restacked in the cupboard.
We may be living under the illusion that we, are fine-china people, but in fact, we are more like everyday dish people.
1. God lives in and through ordinary people.
• But this precious treasure – this light and power that now shines within us is held in earthen vessels, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. II Corinthians 4:7
The text begins by putting before us contrasting images: One image is of a precious treasure and the other of an earthen vessel or clay jar. The precious treasure is of great and perhaps even inestimable value… the jar of clay is not so valuable.
We are told that the precious treasure is the glory of God as revealed in Christ. And, we are told that we are jars of clay. In other words, God has placed himself in very ordinary, everyday people.
This is contrary to what we generally do with things of great value. We generally secure them in places safer than a sock drawer or under the mattress. If we want to display something of great value, we frame it in a fitting frame or place it in a display cabinet under a light or hang it on a museum wall.
We may assign a great deal of extrinsic value to our bodies and spend thousands and thousands of dollars on our bodies, but unless a person has a mouthful of gold teeth, his intrinsic value is actually quite insignificant. A trivia website notes that the elements in and the skin that covers the human body is worth about $4.50… based on the cost of cow hide, which is about 25 cents per square foot, our skin is worth $3.50 of the $4.50 estimated value. (http://www.coolquiz.com/trivia/explain/docs/worth.asp)
The idea is that a clay container is unworthy to hold a thing such as the the glory of God. The earthen vessel or jar of clay, like the human body is frail, fragile, and easily returned to dust or clay. (Albert Barnes, Barnes Notes, II Corinthians - Galatians, P. 83)
The former Pakastani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, died in an assassination attempt on December 27, 2007. The (London) Times ran an online article citing the family feud now raging as to who will be assume the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. Her uncle, Muntaz Bhutto, leader of the 700,000 strong Bhutto tribe disputes the appointment of her son, Bilawal Bhutto and her widower husband Asif Ali Zardari as co-chairmen of the PPP. (Jeremy Page, TimesOnline, January 2, 2008)