2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Clay jars were the throwaway containers of the ancient world, so that their life spans were generally a few years at the most. They were used to store and transport water and olive oil and wine and grain and even family treasures. Earthenware jars were an anonymous part of everyday living as they were used for cooking and eating and drinking and storing leftovers. No one took note of clay jars any more than we would of a fast-food container. They were simply there for convenience. It was no great tragedy when such vessels were broken. They were cheap and easy to replace.
As such, jars of clay provided Paul with a penetrating metaphor for his and his followers’ humanity. As clay jars we are all frail, weak, transitory mortals. The “treasure” in these jars of clay is the illuminating power (described in the preceding verse as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”) that God provides with the full creation power with which he spoke things into existence. This “treasure,” this creational, transforming gospel power, has been committed to insignificant, fragile followers of Christ.
The reason for this is so there would be no mistake about where the power comes from — “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Christians are never powerful in themselves but are only vessels in which God’s power is exhibited. Paul is speaking primarily of himself, but the truth he teaches is true for every follower of Christ. Our utter frailty and weakness provides the ground for God’s power.
At the end of this letter Paul rejoices that his weakness makes him a conduit for God’s power: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (12:9).
In all of this, then, Paul is graphically and categorically stating that our weakness is essential to and necessary for the display of his power. As we embrace our weakness, God fills us with his power so that his power is manifested through us.
Someone once asked St. Francis how he was able to accomplish so much. He replied, “This may be why: The Lord looked down from heaven and said, ‘Where can I find the weakest, littlest man on earth?’ Then he saw me and said, ‘I’ve found him, and he won’t be proud of it. He’ll see that I am only using him because of his insignificance.’”
Lord help us NOT to trust and to lean on our own understanding but to trust in YOU ALONE. By your grace help us to embrace our weakness so that you surpassing power can be made manifest in our lives. Amen
PRAYERS for TODAY
For understanding and an acceptance of this difficult truth i.e. that God uses the foolish and the weak things of this world as instruments of his grace and power.
For weakness and humility so that God’s Power will be made manifest among us.
For God’s strength and grace for those who are discouraged.