But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this extraordinary power is from God and not from us.
– 2 Corinthians 4:7
I was having lunch with a friend recently in Jars of Clay cafe in Phnom Penh, when my friend asked what jars of clay meant.
I had never really thought closely about this, so I thank my friend for inspiring me to check it out.
Paul’s using it is a metaphor about ‘the gospel’ – the ‘good news’ about Jesus.
In biblical times lights (candles) would be carried in clay jars.
Yet clay jars were brittle, fragile and easily broken.
People are also brittle and fragile, and easily broken.
Paul is saying that even though we humans may be broken and fragile, God still uses us – like jars of clay – to carry the light of the gospel.
We are the jars of clay.
To grasp what Paul means exactly we have to go back to the previous verse:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory.
– 2 Cor 4:6
In Philippians 1:10 Paul says:
This is my prayer, that you may be ‘pure’ and sincere until the day of Christ – filled with the fruit of righteousness…
The Greek word for ‘pure’ is eilikrineis and it means ‘that which can be judged faultless when held up to the light.
Eagles hold their young up to the sunlight to see if they are of good breed. People hold banknotes up to the light to check that they are real. In biblical times clay jars would also be held up to the sunlight to check if there were any cracks.
We humans are full of cracks. And it is through the cracks, through our human imperfections, says Paul, that people see the Light of God.
That is how people see the power of God at work within us.
Through our human fragility and brokeness God’s power shines through and the Light of the gospel of Christ is revealed.
As Jesus told Paul on the road to Damascus:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Have a great week!