Summary: Our character is not set by genetics or the failures or mistakes of the past. We have a CHOICE. We can CHANGE. We can become someone capable of containing God and accomplishing His purposes.
2 Timothy 2:20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21
Thali this is a word you can use in a south-Indian restaurant to ask for a meal-but the name does not come from where I had always thought-a word meaning “meal”. It is actually a reference to the vessel in which the meal is served. . . the stainless steel, immaculately clean, plate.
Just like a stainless steel vessel is made for our use, we are vessels for God’s use. But unlike plates, if you “cleanse yourself” of the ignoble purposes of lower vessels you actually change the kind of vessel you are. Our habits form our character. Who we are is determined not by genetics, nor our environment, nor by what others decide for us, but by the choices we make concerning how we will be used in this world. If I allow my body, mind, heart, and spirit to be caught up in lower activities, I will be forming myself into a vessel of lower things. If my body, mind, heart, and spirit are used for noble purposes, I will become a vessel for great and wondrous things.
The four aspects of our vessel-Jesus taught
“love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”. I believe He was addressing the various aspects of our personality, our humanity, our vessel. We are to dedicate everything we are to the love of God. This is a noble purpose.
Stephen Covey has written a terrific book based on these four aspects of our humanity from a secular perspective-the 8th Habit. If you haven’t read it I recommend it.
In that book he uses different words to describe the same thing, and the means of development for each. Everyone has heard of IQ or Intelligence Quotient. There are standardized tests for measuring this aspect of human nature. The average IQ world wide is 100. Some are a bit higher and some a bit lower. But IQ is not the only Quotient that counts. There is more than one way in which we must show ourselves worthy of the Master’s use:
Body (strength): for this we need physical discipline and practice to develop our Physical Intelligence, PQ
Heart: to develop this aspect we must develop our emotional skills and understanding, EQ
Mind: to develop our mind we must study and learn and grow in understanding, IQ
Spirit (soul): for the growth of spirit we must dedicate ourselves to our relationship with God and our service to humanity. By this we develop our SQ.
I believe Covey’s observations are biblical and, therefore, valid. We must choose to become those things we want to become, we must hone the uses of our vessel for the noble rather than ignoble purposes.
When we indulge our body in abusive activities, we lower ourselves and become something less, and, thereby, make our bodies unfit for noble uses in the Master’s economy. When we smoke, drink hard liquor or drink wine or beer excessively, indulge in promiscuous sex, tell lies, or use our bodies to commit crimes, we demean ourselves and become something less than God designed us to be.
When we waste our emotions on regret, and coldness, and resentment, and anger, and blame, and complaints, and gossip, and hatred, and apathy, we form our hearts into vessels of ignobility-unfit for the Master’s use.
When we engage our minds with trivia, fill them with the violence, sensuality, and dissipation of films and novels and the internet, fill them with pornography, scheming new ways to bring ourselves illicit mental pleasures, we caste our minds into a form incapable of containing God’s higher purposes.
When we set our hearts with avarice, and envy, and strife, and greed, and competition, and desire for things and people which do not belong to us, we degrade our hearts, making them into vessels of inglorious capacities.
When we starve our spirits by self-centered pursuits, seeking merely to ‘find ourselves’ and to discover our own uniqueness, when we avoid prayer, shun Bible reading, skip devotions, and find no time for service, we emaciate our spirits to the point that they are incapable of spiritual exercise and can no longer run the great race that is set before us. We become spiritual couch potatoes, barely able to muster the strength to lift the remote to change the channel of our lives.
All of this is very bad news.
The good news is that WE HAVE A CHOICE. We are not destined to remain vessels unfit for our God’s use. Paul says we must cleanse ourselves. He is not exhorting Timothy to ask the LORD for cleansing-that is needed and without His blood there is no remission or cleansing of sins, yet Paul commands Timothy to cleanse himself of ignoble uses so that he can become a vessel fit for the LORD’s purposes. We may be, by nature, vessels of wood or dirt, or stone, but we have a hand in forming ourselves into better vessels for better purposes.