2 Corinthians 4: Jars of Clay

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Hudson Taylor, the founder of China Inland Mission, wrote in his autobiography of a Buddhist who came to Christ in 1857 in Ningpo.  A few nights after his conversion, he asked how long the British had known about Jesus Christ.  Being told that they had known for hundreds of years, he exclaimed:  My father sought after the truth for more than 20 years, and died without finding it. Oh, why did you not come sooner? [1] The Psalmist writes:

For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:8-9 ESV)

The priceless treasure that comes to us in jars of clay, unfortunately, does not come to everyone.

As a student of marketing, I bear witness to the importance of packaging—especially for perishable products.  Walking through a typical supermarket today, we can see thousands of delicious and beautiful food products which 100 years ago were unknown to most of humanity.  Why?  Because the cost of packaging, transportation, and refrigeration was simply too high.  Today, high quality packaging and refrigeration are taken for granted.  We do not even think about such things.  Instead, we just buy whatever looks good and assume that it will always be available for a modest cost.

When it comes to spiritual matters, however, looks can be deceiving.  The Apostle Paul writes:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (vv 3-4).

The Gospel is veiled in the story of Jesus Christ who was executed on a cross for sedition and whose story is best told by followers who understand the meaning of suffering.  Of the suffering, Paul writes:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (vv 8-10)

You see, the packaging is a bit worn and is not at all attractive—clay pots that hide the value of what is found inside.  Again, Paul writes:  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (v 4).

Looks can be deceiving…

[1] J. Hudson Taylor.  1987.  Hudson Taylor (Autobiography).  Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers. Pages 126-127. @bethany_house, www.BethanyHouse.com

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