Treasures in Jars of Clay

The people God uses and deposits His treasure in are not as we might expect, or even choose if we had that power. But, ‘Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? . . . This is what the Lord says – the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it’ (Isaiah 45:9,11-12). However, after examining themselves vis-a-vis what God had done for and through them, people used mightily by God throughout the Bible marvelled at His doings. And through this, they came to learn of their fallibility. David even asks God, ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you visit him? You made him a little lower than God and crowned him with glory and honour. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet’ (Psalm 8:4-6). With what God has bestowed on man, many have credited their strengths, achievements, and prowess to themselves to a point they say, ‘I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god’ (Ezekiel 28:2). But those who have come face to face with God quickly realize that it completely has nothing to do with them. They realize that ‘every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning’ (James 1:17). Paul realizes this and so says, ‘we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is not from us’ (2 Corinthians 4:7).

While the worldly may boast of fame, money, power, education, positions, and possessions, God deposits greater things in Believers that the world understands not. Jesus tells of this parable; ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field’ (Matthew 13:44). He then adds, ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it’ (v45-46). Notice that Jesus states that the gifts from above are like a treasure hidden in a field, because in the same way, the treasures Believers possess are within them. As a result, they may not be fully apparent to the world. We might not even be the brightest, the richest, or the most appealing according to worldly standards. In most cases, we are the opposite. ‘Up to this moment, we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world’ (1 Corinthians 4:13). But this is not surprising because, for Jesus Christ Himself, a majority did not see ‘the radiance of God’s glory’ (Hebrews 1:3) He had. In fact, ‘He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering’ (Isaiah 53:2-3). Thus, those who come to Christ are not drawn by superficial reasons, but that their spiritual eyes have been opened to see the fullness of riches that is in Him. That is why Jesus says, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:44).

Paul was a powerful apostle ordained by God. His ministry accompanied ‘miracles, signs, and wonders’ (2 Corinthians 12:12), because these are ‘the things that mark an apostle’ (v12). He was able to demonstrate the power of being a Disciple of Christ because of the treasure deposited in him. One would think that the power working in him would be apparent, and cause him to act like the superheroes depicted in movies. However, unlike the world’s depiction of power, God’s ‘power is made perfect in weakness’ (v9). Paul even says of himself, ‘By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!’ (10:v1). If one should recall that Paul was formerly one who persecuted Christians and thus had to have exuded boldness in such a mission, then this statement seems to be unlike him. But when Paul encountered Jesus, he realized that ‘though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds’ (v3-4). Some in the Church, however, were unimpressed with Paul’s ‘timid’ personality saying, ‘His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing’ (v10). They did not realize that God uses one not to show off their personalities or capabilities, but His power. Hence, Paul says, ‘Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day’ (2 Timothy 1:12). Matter of fact, ‘If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ’ (Galatians 1:10).

Those who are worldly look ‘only on the surface of things’ (2 Corinthians 10:7), and so miss out on hearing from God come to realise that true belief does not match their shallow view. That is why ‘not everyone has faith’ (2 Thessalonians 3:2), causing Paul to conclude, ‘For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life’ (2:v15-16). Those who have a worldly, superficial view, though claiming to be Christians, are the ones easily lured to death. Such prefer to listen to ‘super-apostles’ (11:v5), who Paul notes ‘are false prophets, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostle of Christ’ (v13). Some in the Church discriminated Paul on shallow basis, causing Paul to say, ‘I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge’ (v6). To date, many forfeit knowledge, because the jar it comes with is of clay. They instead follow false prophets who are ‘clouds without rain’ (Jude 1:12), and false gods who cannot see, hear, or save. God even challenges such, ‘Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it – let them take counsel together’ (Isaiah 45:20-21). That is why any religion requires one to be taught a set of rules to produce the educated, imitated, poised, and patterned. They try to make their followers the same by controlling their lives, and making them slaves to rituals – because they try to define who God is.  However, Jesus says, ‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit’ (John 1:8). That is why Believers in Jesus Christ are not the religious because Christianity has never been a religion, and will never be.

When Peter and John were before the religious leaders due to charges brought against them, they exuded such power and confidence. The religious leaders did not understand how such unpoised, ordinary, and uneducated men had courage to answer back to them with such audacity. ‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). Thus, Jesus is found among the ordinary and mundane, which most tend to overlook. He may not be among the scholars, the religious, or those who have gone to Bible School. For Jesus resides with those who are weak enough to allow His power to work in and through them. That is why He ‘chose the foolish things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). So, those who recognize that they are jars of clay are the ones that God deposits His treasures into, because such cannot boast of degrees, competencies, eloquence, or anything else. They can only like Paul say, ‘I will not boast about myself, except about my weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:5), because they realize that the more they decrease, the more God increases–  and so His power and strength rests on them all the more. ‘For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (v10). Thus, treasures in jars of clay acknowledge this fact and say, ‘Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God’ (3:v5). And so, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends’ (10:v17-18). For God has already determined and decreed, ‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word’ (Isaiah 66:2).

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?~ 1 Corinthians 1:20

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love’ ~ Psalm 147:10-11

‘In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work’ ~ 2 Timothy 2:20-21

Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right, and let him who is holy continue to be holy~ Revelation 22:11