Treasure In Clay Pots
But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:7
In Corinth and throughout that part of the Roman Empire, wealthy people often concealed their valuables in ordinary, unadorned clay pots. These pots were so common that, they hoped, thieves wouldn’t think to look in them. Paul picks up this practice and uses it as an analogy of our faith. The treasure, of course, is Christ. Before verse 7, Paul describes in beautiful language that the message of the gospel is the light that shatters the darkness of people’s hearts. The treasure, though, is carried by common, ordinary people- clay pots that often have cracks!
Paul uses this stark contrast for two purposes: first, to show the difference between the surpassing greatness of God and us so that we remain humble and, second, to remind us of the incredible honor of being the vessels that carry the greatest treasure ever known.
When God transforms our hearts, the miracle of change doesn’t honor us- it magnifies His infinite grace. And when we tell people what Christ has done for us to forgive us and give us new life, our words don’t focus on us- they focus on His power and kindness. We are happy for people to look past us to see Jesus in us. That’s what matters. What a privilege! We have the inexpressible honor of carrying the message of Christ- by how we live and in the words we say- to everyone around us. Never has a cracked, flawed, common clay contained such a treasure!
Do the best you can with what you have, and God will take what you’ve done and pass it on.
Hundreds of people spend their lives seeking treasure. Some put themselves in danger, spend lots of time and money, and push past failure and disappointments because they just know the treasure lies waiting to be discovered. Treasure is valuable and it has the power to change the life of the discoverer.
Jesus talked about the kingdom of God as being a treasure.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a [very precious] treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field [securing the treasure for himself].
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, and upon finding a single pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Treasure is something we value highly. In this parable Jesus tells us that those who were seeking treasure were willing to give up all they had to possess it.
Once we “discover” the treasure that Christ is, He becomes so valuable to us that we are willing to trade everything for moments in His presence. The songwriter says it this way: “Nothing in this world can satisfy, Jesus you’re the cup that won’t run dry. Your Presence is heaven to me.” The verse says: Treasure of my heart and of my soul, In my weakness You are merciful, Your Presence is heaven to me.”
We as the children of God carry within us the very treasure of heaven. It’s not that the vessel is perfect or without flaws. And it’s not the vessel but what it carries is valuable and that treasure is Christ. The happiest people on earth are those who feel rich because of the treasure of Christ within them. Oh they may not wear the finest clothes, drive the finest cars, live in the best of houses, but they feel rich because they know they are a child of the King.
It’s amazing that the King of Glory would put His treasure in flawed pots, but He has chosen to do jut that. I’m sure that if some wealthy, powerful, influential person came to our home and asked if they might come in and spend a few days, we would feel incredibly honored. We’d probably tell everyone we knew about our guest. We would probably arrange for our friends and family to meet this important person and I’m sure we’d treasure every moment we could spend with them. I hope that we feel this way about Jesus.
Once we have received Christ as our Savior, everywhere we go we carry His presence. Paul in writing to the Corinthians describes this treasure as “the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him.”
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which ascends] to God, [discernible both] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter one an aroma from death to death [a fatal, offensive odor], but to the other an aroma from life to life [a vital fragrance, living and fresh]. And who is adequate and sufficiently qualified for these things?”
2 Corinthians 2: 14-16
In this example Paul is sitting in prison and observing the emperor and his army enter Rome after another conquest. As he enters, there are coming before him incense bearers carrying sweet smelling incense. That day as the prisoners begin to smell the fragrance, they know that coming behind the smell is a time of reckoning. The custom was that upon the entrance of the emperor, some prisoners would be pardoned and freed, others would be judged and executed. The incense bearers had no say in the outcome, they were just the messengers. The fragrance coming out of the burning incense was their message.
We who have this treasure within us are also incense bearers and because of the treasure and it’s fragrance, everywhere we go, we are messengers of life and death. Life to those who receive Christ and death to those who reject Him. The powerful message of the fragrance and its power of life and death makes it valuable and those who understand this recognize that Christ within us is the hope- the only hope. He is like that pearl of great price or the treasure hidden in the field and as such is the most valuable thing we possess. His price is far above all the wealth of this world. Nothing in this world can compare to Him. He is truly the best gift anyone could ever be given and the most incredible treasure anyone could ever find.
Once we ourselves discover the value of this treasure, we want everyone we know to find and possess this treasure for themselves. That’s why we worship, that’s why we witness, and that’s why we have learned to be content in every situation.
Dr. John Thompson