You probably have some of these items lying around, maybe stacked a few high in your garage. That’s where ours are. These old clay pots aren’t particularly attractive, are they? But they are functional. We’ve used them to get plants started for transplanting later. A larger one in our collection holds a few flowering plants and sits obscurely amid a couple of bushes—sort of blending in with the earth-tone surroundings—so the bright colors from the flower’s blossoms pop against the muted backdrop of dark green and brown.
It doesn’t take much of an investment to add a few clay pots to your gardening collection, either. You can pick some up at Menards for anywhere from 69¢ to about $20, depending on the size. What I’m guessing is the most common size would cost you less than $3. Doesn’t exactly get you too steamed if you knock one off the porch rail, sending it to shatter in a hundred shards on the sidewalk below. Something like that happened in my garage to one of those orange beauties, and I was more disturbed about the mess I had to clean up than I was with the loss of the pot. The point is, these old clay pots really aren’t very valuable. But they are functional! They fulfill a wide variety of those gardening needs and do so quite economically.
I mention all this because the apostle Paul in the New Testament refers to himself and others in my vocation as clay pots who carry about a significant treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7). His point, of course, is that the vessel isn’t the important thing, the attractive thing, the valuable thing—we’re just a bunch of old clay pots, after all!
Have you ever been to a garden center this time of year, looked over the sea of blossoming flowers for some varieties for your flower beds, and exclaimed, “O look, honey! We just have to get those! Look at that lovely faded orange pot!” Um, no. The splendor of a vibrant, variegated display of color in the flower pot is what’s attractive. Do you even really notice the container it comes in?
Likewise in Paul’s analogy. Those of us who serve in gospel ministry are incidental containers for attractive, valuable, eternally important contents. The context of Paul’s statement displays the contents. He uses a variety of synonymous expressions, each providing a different glorious hue to what could be summed up as “this ministry” (2 Corinthians 4:1). He elaborates. Expanding upon the general idea of “this ministry,” he explains (4:2-7) we are handling the word of God…manifesting the truth…revealing the light of the glorious gospel of Christ…preaching Christ Jesus the Lord…displaying the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Well, if that describes the focus, the emphasis, the essential content of our work as ministers of the gospel, what then are we in comparison??