Recently, I had an occasion to cite Paul’s words that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” (II Cor. 4:7) I find many folks know this verse, but often misuse it. I am convinced Paul does not mean we have this treasure as a possession of our own. Even more, I do not think he means that we deserve this treasure because of good works or being a good person. All we have to do is finish the second half of the quotation to understand what Paul means by “having this treasure in earthen vessels.”
Paul says “that we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” So this treasure that we have is nothing more than a testimony to God’s great creative and caring power. No reason for human pride here! Humility is the order of the day.
Given that, we can reflect on what having this treasure does for us. One good option is to understand our treasure as our connection to the very Source of life itself. I like the language of connection. One of the best images for connection is friendship.
The most compelling words in the New Testament for me are those invitational words of Jesus, “I have called you friends.” (John 15:15) I even like to personalize these words, “Jesus had called me a friend.” Sometimes that is a challenge to accept. Sometimes I don’t feel worthy. Sometimes, I am neglectful of that “friendly” offer. Sometimes, I am too proud to link my soul to another. I cannot be friend and be selfish. The other---the friend---also has a treasure in an earthen vessel.
This last line reminds me the Greek word in the New Testament for “friend” is one of three Greek words for “love.” In fact, when Jesus calls us “friends,” he is actually calling us “lovers!” Imagine that! The call to friendship is always the invitation to love. No boring gospel when seen this way!
I love the words of an ancient Chinese sage, Mencius, who said, “Friendship is one mind in two bodies.” Our meditative time is our realization we can take on “the mind of Christ.” To take on the mind of Christ in our bodies is to discover the treasure of friendship in our earthen vessels.
An extension of this wonder with Christ is to find the wonder of friendship with other Christians and then with other folks in general. Let’s spread the wealth of our treasure and find someone to whom we can say, “I call you friend.” Jesus encourages love. Friendship is love. Now friend, go and glow with the wealth of your treasure. Blessings.