Treasure in Jars of Clay
Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:1-11
For today’s devotional we are headed out on a treasure hunt, looking to see if we can find some hidden and valuable trove. Look there! We’ve found it! Right here in 2 Corinthians 4:7! Let’s examine this “treasure” to see what it’s all about!
The context of our passage has to do with how it was Paul did not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1,16), though his ministry was hindered by the reality that the god of this world blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). But Paul was encouraged by how God worked in the lives of believers to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Therein lies the treasure! You were previously without God and without hope in the world, darkened in your understanding, blinded to the reality of your own sin and to the truth of the gospel. Yet God graciously intervened in your life, unveiling to you the precious truth “of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). It was a wonderful day when “you were born of the Spirit with life from above into God’s family divine!” You came to understand Jesus through the gospel. In knowing Our Lord, you’ve come to possess “unsearchable riches” (Ephesians 3:8). Paul, himself was well aware of the value of knowing Christ, for Who’s sake he had counted all else in life as rubbish (Philippians 3:8).
Now notice where God has placed this treasure, in “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Jars of clay were widely used in Paul’s day. They were used to hold things. There were vessels of gold and silver and there were jars of clay. A jar of clay, as opposed to vessels of gold and silver, were ordinary–fragile, and vulnerable. Now why would God liken us to jars of clay? Because that’s what we are. Consider your calling—“God chose what is foolish in the world…God chose what is weak in the world…God chose what was low and despised in the world” (1 Corinthians 1:25-31). He did so to shame the wise and to remove all room for human boasting. In fact, it is only “because of him that you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30). You and I are much loved by God, yet are nonetheless jars of clay having nothing within ourselves to boast about. Jars of clay are fragile and vulnerable. They can be easily broken. And so, Paul spoke of being “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, given over to death, etc. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11). Let’s face it, we all are needy humans and are weak in ourselves and subject to a myriad of troubles. It’s a wonder our jars of clay survive at all! But this brings us to our next point…
Why has God chosen to put the treasure of knowing Jesus and His gospel in jars of clay? He could have instead put it into stronger golden vessels, with fancy inscriptions on the side—all decked out so people would look and say “ooh and aah, what a beautiful golden vessel!” Instead God placed His treasure in jars of clay “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). It is in our own humanness and neediness God’s surpassing power is clearly made manifest. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
What does all this mean to us? First, we need to treasure the treasure. Paul taught us that knowing Jesus was the most important thing in his life. “But this one thing I do,” he said in reference to the pursuit of knowing Jesus better (Philippians 3:13). Is that your “one thing?” Second of all, we need to be authentic. We are jars of clay—ordinary, vulnerable, fragile—yet inside we possess a treasure of infinite value, a treasure others need too. But it’s the treasure they need, not us. One of the most beautiful things we can hear, or say is “I can see Jesus in you!” It is in our inadequacies His adequacy has an opportunity to be made manifest (2 Corinthians 3:5). It is okay to be you! Jars of clay don’t need to put on a show. They just need to let the light of the treasure shine forth!
Lord, how incredible that would choose and save us! By Your doing we’ve come been lovingly brought into relationship with You! And how amazing it is that into our frail and vulnerable human vessels You’ve put this treasure of knowing You! We are weak, but You are strong, and in our weakness the surpassing greatness of Your power is made manifest! You never meant for the treasure to stay hidden within us, may You and Your glory shine such that others might see You in us!
We are God’s people, the chosen of the Lord,
Born of the Spirit, established by His Word;
Our cornerstone is Christ alone, And strong in Him we stand:
O let us live transparently, and walk heart to heart and hand in hand.