“We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7. Looking at the passage before this, we see Paul has likened the light of the gospel coming into the heart to the light of creation. “For it is the God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (v. 6). This is light with a purpose. The face of Christ is illumined to us, not in visions necessarily, but in our coming to recognize that the Christ of the Gospels is indeed the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour. This then is our treasure, the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as He comes to make His home in our hearts.
Paul says “earthen vessels,” and this represents our bodies, or more specifically our whole lives. When I was a missionary in Japan, I was amazed at the talent of the Japanese with their flower arrangements or ikebana as they are called. What I noticed was that the perfection of the flowers was not obscured by a garish, highly-painted vase. Generally, the pottery was nondescript in color and short in comparison to the arrangement.
Paul further says “that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us,” which gives the purpose of the earthen vessel. The question comes to each of us then, “Is my life showing or obscuring my treasure?”
In recent years among evangelicals (influenced by the secular world), Christians are being urged in conferences, through books, and by counselors to “accept themselves” and others. In women’s circles, “fulfillment” is sought and taught. This is necessary, for long-standing abuses are being corrected. But my question is a warning: Is there not a danger of over-preoccupation with the vessel? Is God going to be glorified by me “actualizing my potential” or by me humbly, gratefully displaying my treasure? Whether we seek positive improvements in our personalities or elimination of bad habits in ourselves, let our motives be that Christ will be seen increasingly in our lives.
Written February 16, 1974.
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