Jars of clay: Ordinary, common, easily broken, worn and cracked.
Our mind and bodies are like these clay jars: susceptible to becoming fragile, broken and worn with use.
But it is human nature to hide our weaknesses. We prefer to appear indestructible and exquisite rather than fragile and ordinary. We cover our clay jar with fancy paint and fill in every crack to disguise how it has become broken and faded with age. Sometimes we do not want to spill any of the contents, so the inside becomes stagnate. Eventually, the contents slowly seep through the cracks. When we become more concerned about what everyone thinks about the outside of our jar rather than what is inside, our jar suffers an identity crisis – it is not functioning according to its purpose. Clay jars are to be filled up, poured out and then filled up again. But this jar oozes rather than pours even though it has a façade that looks slick and fancy.
I must admit that looking like an ordinary jar has not always been enough for me. There is this dreamer in me that longs stand out, be beautiful, unique and special. This desire has fueled my motivation to be a productive and accomplished person. It has spurred me on to major in music in college so that I could perform in front of others, diet so that I’ll fit in a cute dress and fill up my closet with clothes, work out in the gym to be toned, put in ridiculous hours to learn new skills in my IT career to have financial stability, work hard to buy a house, renovate the house and shop at Home Goods to decorate the house.
And after all this effort I can still struggle with thinking I’m not good enough.
After decades of striving really, really hard in all areas of my life, I have accepted this truth:
No matter how hard I try to be an unworn, unbroken and uncracked jar, I will still be a worn, broken and cracked jar. Why? Because my flesh is weak and susceptible to sin.
However, the condition of the jar is not where the value lies.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 says that, these cracked, fragile, faded and worn jars were created to hold a treasure.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
These verses contain a truth that sets me straight every time I looked to myself to be great:
This all-surpassing power is from God and not from me.
This verse also says that to give room for God’s all-surpassing power, we need to carry around in us the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus will be revealed in our body. There isn’t room in our jar for both self-promotion and the promotion of God. We either fill up our jar with self or fill it up with God.
We make God’s glory evident when a weak vessel can be hard pressed on every side and yet not crushed. God’s power is unmistakable when a cracked clay jar can be struck down yet not destroyed.
God is willing to entrust us with his precious treasure – the Holy Spirit. The more we love and honor this treasure, the more it will transform us by God’s love. Then when we are hard pressed, this treasure spills out and the aroma of Christ fills the air.
Though I have been a dedicated church-going Christian most of my life, there were times I lost sight of the treasure and paid more attention to the outside of my jar. But my jar has been jostled and struck down enough times that I finally understand – in my heart and not just my head – what the Bible means when it says, “But we have these treasures in jars of clay.”
I created this table to compare what it looks like to focus on the jar rather than the treasure.
When we fully appreciate that God fills our ordinary, fragile jar of clay with treasures – his all surpassing power – then God gets all the glory, and our jar becomes very useful. Then when people look at this jar, they will say, “Wow, look at how great God is that He can make such a fragile piece of clay look so indestructible. There is no mistake God is inside that jar!”
The apostle Paul fully understood the value of this treasure. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is says:
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Are you focusing on the jar or the treasure?