“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
~2 Cor. 4:7
This scripture is kind of famous :)
I’ve heard people suggest that the phrase “earthen vessels” indicates human weakness, as in When we mess up, it gives God glory (praise) because it shows people that any good in us must be supernatural.
And until recently, I’ve thought the same. I believed God was honored when I lapsed into my old lifestyle because then any “goodness” I otherwise displayed would clearly be from Him.
But it seems like God may be challenging this belief of mine.
Have you ever wondered…. what are our “earthen vessels” really? Do they refer to our bad behavior?
Does God, who put His precious treasure in me, receive any honor when I act selfishly? Or does my hypocrisy hinder Him from being revealed to the people around me & honored in the eyes of men?
Yes, I’m a frail “jar of clay”! But perhaps my frailty doesn’t refer to when I act how I did before Jesus came into my heart and transformed it. Perhaps Scripture means my weakness is something else.
God put His Spirit inside of us so we’d be different… and so that this difference would draw others like a light. The whole chapter of 2 Corinthians 4 talks about this very thing:
“The god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…
For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” ~2 Cor. 4:4-8
Light is what attracts people, not darkness. Our world is already brimming with that.
My earthen vessel, then, seems to be my limited strength, my tendency to get weary (physically & spiritually), my lack of outstanding mental & physical traits - NOT MY SIN.
When a normally weak person can suddenly forgive his haters, persevere through great pain, or speak amazing wisdom beyond his years (like the disciples, a group of uneducated fishermen)… that grabs people’s attention. Why? Because it goes against the norm.
Reminds me of a powerful prayer Jesus prayed:
“Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will.” ~Matt 11:25-26
And elsewhere, in Paul’s famous Corinthian diatribe:
“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?… Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” ~1 Cor. 1:20-29
God reveals Himself through young children, unlearned men, and life’s biggest rejects: basically the weakest links. Not the strongest.
People want to witness God’s power in spite of us, even through us, and be amazed. They won’t see His reflection in us when we display sinfulness (as some say our weak vessel is). Henry Blackaby taught this: that people are drawn to what no human can do in the natural – only what God Himself is doing through His limited creation. They want to see miracles. Our sin doesn’t make the cut.
My backsliding into old & destructive ways helps NO ONE (including me!). It doesn’t give God honor because He’s put a gift within me that I’m refusing to let shine. When I shine, people are drawn to this light – Him in me! When I sin, they walk away disappointed and disillusioned, still searching for what I could have given them.
“Like a muddied fountain and a polluted spring is a righteous man who yields, falls down, and compromises his integrity before the wicked.” ~Prov. 25:26
Why are people who don’t know Jesus drawn to people who do? “Because they want more of the same dark, perverse world?” Or because they seek God’s treasure in us?
People are thirsty & don’t need MORE OF THE SAME. They seek in us what they need from God: Kindness, purity, joy, forgiveness, love, peace. They seek Jesus! Yet how will they find Him if they don’t see Him in us, His light bearers?
Our sinful self shames His name & us because we’re acting like the sinners we used to be… and there’s no light in sin, no glory that we reflect God’s way.
We give Him great glory when we’re obedient, when we rid ourselves of our selfish tendencies and instead display Jesus’s nature.
Let’s not give our world ‘more of the same’. Let’s be the fresh, bubbling spring Jesus said people can drink from so they never thirst again. We’re able to do this because:
“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” ~2 Peter 1:3
Don’t be afraid to shine.