Scripture & Thought

2 Corinthians 4:7, 16

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

The Apostle Paul knew something about human frailty. He talked about a treasure we have in clay pots. Fragile. Cheap. Easily broken. Is that any way to protect valuables? In jars of clay? Not really. Valuables are kept in safety deposit boxes, where it takes a photo ID to access the bank vault and a special key to open the box. A ceramic vase may trick a thief into thinking that nothing of value is hidden in such a container. But an experienced home invader will break everything in sight, hoping to reveal something of worth. Paul used the jar of clay metaphor to describe the human body – “wasting away.”

So much for our bodies – our “jars of clay.” What is the “treasure” that is mentioned in verse 7? In verse 4 Paul said that it is “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Something old and fragile, coupled with something new and eternal.

Paul was not speaking about an item that can be purchased at your favorite department store. He was talking about a spiritual condition that comes with a “forever” promise that its power will never be diluted. Paul acknowledged that as humans we will wear out physically, but even so we can gain spiritual strength and be “renewed” day by day.

In the passage above, the Apostle lists a series of paradoxes in which – according to commentator William Barclay – “our infirmity is intermingled with God’s glory.”

  • We are “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.”
  • We are “perplexed, but not in despair.”
  • We are “persecuted, but not abandoned.”
  • We are “struck down, but not destroyed.”

“Therefore,” says Paul, “we do not lose heart.” There is no news these days any better than that!

Prayer:   “Heavenly Father, accept my thanks today for the powerful truth from your Word. Thank you for inspiring Paul to write the words, and for giving me the opportunity to read and reflect on them. I have friends who will read these words today and will wonder if they are still true – friends who have lost loved ones and aren’t sure I what direction their lives are taking them. Father, I ask you to apply your grace to their sorrow and anxiety. Speak words of hope and peace to their fragile “earthen vessels.” Say to them, “I am with you now, and I will never leave you!” I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus, who first proclaimed this truth.”