St. Paul says we have this treasure in jars of clay. (2 Co. 4:7) What is the treasure and what are the jars of clay?
The treasure is Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in us. The jars of clay are we who have accepted Christ, who have been baptized into his church, who have opened the door of our hearts to experience his presence and the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
But this treasure is not just for us, but also for the people and circumstances in our lives. To release the treasure, the jars of clay need to be broken. We need to be broken of our pride, our agendas and of doing things “my way.” “A broken and contrite heart you will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17)
My self-focused nature is often the greatest obstacle to my sharing the treasure of God’s love with my family, friends and strangers that enter into my daily life. It is amazing how easily I can forget that Christ lives in me when responding to an unsolicited phone caller, a store clerk who doesn’t seem to meet my expectations or the interruption of my plans for the day by a loved one.
It is interesting that Paul used the word-picture of a jar of clay rather than one of iron. From his own self-described experience, he knows that we are weak vessels when it comes to holding God’s presence, love and willingness to sacrifice.
Yet as we share this treasure, the light of Christ, his love, truth and sacrifice will shine in the darkness of the world surrounding us even if the darkness does not understand it. We must remember that one of Jesus’ harshest responses in all of scripture was directed at the servant who buried the talent given to him instead of investing and risking it for God’s kingdom. Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “And throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt. 25:30)
There are of course countless ways to share this treasure. Let me offer one example. One day I was having lunch with one of the executives of the company where I worked and he started to share with me how his wife of more than 40 years had left him due to some actions on his part. I could tell that he was very distraught over both his actions and her response. After listening to him for more than an hour as he described their life and the recent developments, I asked him if I could pray with him. He said yes, I reached across the table, took hold his arm and prayed that God would give him courage to say he was sorry and ask his wife to forgive him; that she would be open to receive his request and the grace to forgive. He was not necessarily a religious person, but by God’s grace they reconciled. He subsequently retired and died of cancer a couple of years later in her love and care.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”