Jars of Clay
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. (2 Cor. 4:7-9)
Paul was speaking to the Corinthian church in the plainest of language he could find to describe the fact that both he and his partners in ministry had been through much for the cause of Christ. They had faced various trials and persecutions, just because of the message of the Christ that he had preached. All the while, he wants them to know that the message he carried is simply housed in an “earthen pot” or “jar of clay” – to keep those who heard the message from seeing the disciple who was bringing that message and to focus their attention on Christ instead. In the King James Version, this text is translated as, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
A treasure is really anything that can be considered a type of wealth or riches. Paul is saying that the message he carried in his spirit and soul was a message of great wealth and something that could make its hearers quite rich in their own inner man. There is abundance in the message they carried that gave an abundant supply to its hearers. The value of the message was to be measured by its qualities, not by the qualities of the individual that brought that message forth. Therefore, it was housed in earthen vessels. There was such a significant merit to the message that it was held in esteem by those who were preaching it and by those who benefited from hearing it.
A treasure is of great worth or value. It lends riches to the one who finds it. To be rich is more than to have monies or properties in great number. It is to have an abundance that goes beyond what one had previously possessed – whether it is in the form of monies, property, knowledge, or spiritual insight. It is the idea of being well-supplied with that which is of the highest value or quality. That which you possess becomes something that you regard highly and prize accordingly. Paul refers to the gospel message in this manner – it is something that supplies all you need, brings you to a place of abundance, and should be prized accordingly.
In our natural course of daily life, treasures are often hoarded – hidden away as a supply that only one or just a few has the benefit from. A treasure is a valuable discovery that can be considered to be a productive discovery in one’s life. Therefore, there is a tendency to hide it away, fearing that its exposure could diminish its value or that it could somehow be lost. On the contrary, the gospel message is something that gains value each time it is shared – it sets the captive free over and over again, never diminishing in its worth or value. Later in the text of this chapter, Paul goes on to say that even though he and his disciples had been going through hardship after hardship for the cause of this message, those who had the advantage of hearing it were getting “in on the best” that life had to offer. We have a treasure to share - that which will help people to "get in on the best". Isn't it time we start sharing our treasure?