2 Corinthians 4:7-12 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
[A sermon from 2003]
Most of us are familiar with something called a safe deposit box. It is a box in which we store certain items that we deem to be so important that we want to put them somewhere special for safe keeping. Some of you may be using a safe deposit box to store insurance policies, financial records, birth certificates, passports and other documents and possessions that are of particular importance to you. For some of you the safe deposit box may be somewhere in your home. We keep our safe deposit box at home. It is a steel, fireproof, locked box in which we store many of the items I named earlier. However, some people go an extra mile for safety and security and they rent a safe deposit box at a bank where they believe their valuables will be even more securely protected against theft, fire or loss. Most of us are familiar with the idea of putting our valuables in a solid and secure safe deposit box.
With that in mind, it is interesting to discover that God does not use that same principle when it comes to the most precious and irreplaceable possession that you or I will ever possess, which is our life and health. The apostle Paul says that God gives us the gift of physical life and the blessing of spiritual life as well, and then he says that we have to house those valuables in "earthen vessels." Not a steel-reinforced safe deposit box, but an earthen vessel. Not a fireproof box that can resist the attacks of this world, but an earthen vessel.
This image of an earthen vessel refers to the clay and mud pots, and bowls and jars that were used by people in ancient times. Even today we are aware of the art of pottery where a lump of clay is shaped and molded and then baked into a finished form. But no matter how beautiful that clay vessel might be, it is still an earthen vessel that can easily be chipped or broken or shattered. It does not matter if you are dealing with a $3.50 pot from Wal-Mart or a $35,000 Ming vase imported from China. They are both fragile and delicate. Unlike that safe deposit box made of fireproof steel, it does not take much to destroy an earthen vessel.
In our text today, Paul draws an analogy between the common earthen vessels of his day and our physical body. We are not as strong as we think we are, and we are not as invincible as we wish we were. These bodies in which we live every day are nothing more that earthen vessels that can be chipped, or broken or shattered and destroyed. Paul tells us that God enriches our lives with wonderful things, both physical and spiritual, but then God houses them inside of our physical bodies that are prone to pain, sickness and even death. God places precious things in earthen vessels.