So, where else would a first century person store a valuable treasure? Under the mattress? In the strongbox hidden in the floor? The safe behind mom's wedding picture? Under the mattress? No, when you think about it, the clay jar makes a lot of sense. It was relatively solid, easy to hide, and could protect a nice sum adequately. Clay jars were available to the common folk, inexpensive, and generally secure from the weather. It wasn't ideal. But it was as good as it gets then. There just wasn't anything else.
Paul wrote, "Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). So, everyone want to identity the "treasure", that which is entrusted to clay jars. Some believe the "treasure" is the the ministry mentioned in 2 Cor. 4:1, "Therefore, since we have this ministry...". Others refer to 2 Cor. 4:6, "...He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ", shortened to "...the light of the knowledge of God's glory...", truly a "treasure". Even more, some reference the "...light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Cor 4:4). And, the debate goes on.
But, identifying the "treasure" is not the most significant discovery of such a great text. What stands out in this entire comparison is that the "treasure", whatever it is, can only be contained in the jar of clay. Now, the glory of God and of Christ is made manifest through general revelation in all of creation. But, the light of this gospel, the Good News of redemption in Jesus Christ is only intended for human redemption. The sin of Eden marked all of creation. Jesus will return one day with a new heaven and a new earth and a new Jerusalem. The natural order will be reversed. But, this glorious gospel is intended for human redemption. His glory is announced in all of creation. But, the light of the gospel is placed in the jar of clay, the human being, the one created in His image. The earthen vessel was all that could hold the valued treasure. Only clay jars can receive the light of the gospel.
It is a delicate, sensitive work, the earthen vessel in which he resides. Every day it is subject to the jarring effects of life, the shattering realities of the fallen world. At our best, we humans are but a step closer to the dust, returning to the soil from which the creator shaped us. In the mystery of His ways, He sought residence in such an earthen vessel. He resides in the recipients of His grace.
What in the world? How can this be? More, why would He live in such fragile vessels? Paul answers in a thrilling end to the sentence, a reminder of the dynamic of a clay jar holding a valuable gift. He wrote, "...so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us". We are helpless to weather the erosion of the clay jar. It happens day by day, often gradually, sometimes suddenly, the fading of this outer container. But, the light of the Gospel in contained right here in this clumsy, easily broken jar. So, we can't get too puffed up about it. The glory is not that we're so sturdy or great, so tough or enduring, such an impenetrable facade. It is that even with this slight and fading exterior, He lives in us. The glory is about Him.
So, we're spending billions to fight off the ravages of time, the aging process that is so frightening to so many. But, it's useless. We're dew on the ground, grass that withers, a vapor that goes away in the hot sun, a pot that is cracking and breaking. But, He is the everlasting God who has taken residence in these broken vessels, and we can say "Glory to God", He lives in me.
And, that's the treasure.