“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthian 4:7)
With the phase “jars of clay” Paul gives us a great image of the Christian life. This image proclaims the glory of weakness, a metaphor foreign to modern living. Our world treasures power, wealth and fame. All must stand up and be strong and control their own destiny. Weakness and self-doubt are vilified except when the powerful use the weak as tools to achieve their own agendas. But Paul’s metaphor tells us that the Lord demonstrates His glory and power through those who are weak. The self-sufficient autonomous person is not the one the Lord can use. These often reject God’s grace to seek inner harmony by means of human methods. They accept a glory that comes from human achievement, human physical strength, and human intellect. Such glory though popular today and praised throughout out culture cannot compare with the glory of God.
The great light of God’s glory is contained in jars of clay, our unattractive and frail humanity. This is great news for it tells us how we are to live. As jars of clay we have no reason to boast in our abilities, our attractiveness or any other reason. Any glory that we receive in carrying out the work of God belongs to the Lord. We are his servants. Like these clay jars, we are useful to contain the precious items of the gospel and the Holy Spirit. The contents are important, the vessel is not. Thus the most appropriate attitude for us humble gratitude for the privilege of serving a function in God’s kingdom. Such words so troubling to a world that seeks glory and celebrity are extremely comforting to the believer for they strengthen us in times of suffering and deprivation.