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The truth about clay jars and earthen vessels

In 2 Corinthians 4:7, we read, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

Some translations use the phrase: "earthen vessels" instead of "jars of clay.” These humble containers are metaphors used to illustrate humans' earthly bodies and lives and also the purpose for each of them.

But what does it mean for us to be “jars of clay” and “earthen vessels?”


The jar exemplifies the humility we should have as followers of Christ. Jars of clay are frail and fragile, much like the weakness of humanity. These jars have no strength or power on their own. The makeup of the jar isn’t a valuable container of gold or silver. Instead, the jar spoken of in this passage is made of clay. Something I found quite interesting is that clay was one of the least valuable materials used for vessels during this biblical period. This representation shows the humility that, as Christians, we should walk in as we realize that it’s not about the jar —instead, it’s about the purpose the jar was created for. And that purpose is only defined by the contents inside of it.


The jar is valuable only because of what is inside. Without anything inside, a jar is just an empty, inexpensive clay container of little or no value. It’s the treasure within the jar that reveals its purpose and beauty. This jar is a picture of us; the treasure inside the jar is Jesus. Once we become Christians, our lives are purposed to be God’s Vessels that shine the light of Jesus to others. This plain jar that at one time appeared ordinary and worthless, upon receiving Salvation, was transformed and made beautiful because of the Light of Christ now within.


The strength of the jar doesn’t come from the exterior; rather, it comes from what's inside. Jars of clay can be easily smashed and made completely useless unless the vessel's contents inside are providing its strength. The strength isn't measured by a perfectly put-together, flawless, and seamless exterior. The world tells us to hide our cracks and brokenness, but vessels that appear damaged to some create an openness for others to see the beauty of the treasure inside. Our imperfections and brokenness reveal the state of humanity. But these chips and defects are not accidental or unexpected to God. While they may reveal the deficiencies that we attempt to hide from others in fear of ridicule —these broken cracks and pieces create opportunities to share the Glory of God and the redemption that He offers through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.


The purpose and power of the jar isn’t about the jar itself. Instead, the purpose is revealed by those who faithfully follow Christ and steward their lives for the treasure inside. Our usefulness isn’t voided by our inefficiencies or broken state. Pain and hardships are unavoidable elements of our lives on earth —for now. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:10. “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.” Though our lives show marks and evidence of times of trials and suffering, they also reveal something far greater and purposeful. To some, we may appear broken and useless, but appearance is ever-changing and, most often, an unreliable source of truth. The unchanging truth comes from inside and allows the focus to shift from the damaged exterior to the perseverance and endurance that result from faith and belief in this truth:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Yes, the jar of clay may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. Even still, the earthen vessel is valued, loved, purposeful, and very much alive because of the life of Jesus within.

The jar is a showcase for the treasure inside.


What a blessing it is that even in our broken and imperfect state, we have been given the honor, privilege, and blessing of being a humble vessel used by God. As disciples of Christ, our lives (jars of clay) have meaning, hope, and purpose. We have been given the responsibility to live in God's image and share Christ's light and love with the world.

Each day is a new day—a gift—an opportunity to bring light to the darkness. Through humble lives and willing transparency, we can recognize that it’s not about us, our strengths, or our weaknesses. Instead, our primary focus and what we display for all to see is the all-powerful, all-knowing sovereignty of The Holy, Perfect Almighty God of the Universe.

Joyfully HIS

Jennifer N. Pearson


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