2 Corinthians 4:7-12 English Standard Version (ESV)
Treasure in Jars of Clay
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
We are still in the first four days of Lent and today is a day that many begin fasting in remembrance of the betrayal of Jesus. This practice can be seen as a sign of our identification with Jesus and His suffering.
When we fast, we do without. We abstain. We let go of the patterns that we think bring us life and happiness but that often, when not held in their proper perspective, actually block our life and happiness.
And so today we come to this amazing passage that proclaims with beautiful imagery that we crackpot people contain this beautiful treasure of God’s surpassing power – and that our affliction-induced cracks are the very means that God’s love becomes visible through us. Yet there is a beautiful mystery afoot here as we are – we must be – considered eternally valuable ourselves to be entrusted with this divine beauty, though our very cracks proclaim this surpassing power is not of ourselves and belongs to God.
So, how do we go about manifesting this life of God, this surpassing power, in our everyday lives? We stop paper-mâché-ing over our cracks and we instead live always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake (v. 10). The origin of paper-mâché is French for “chewed paper.”
When we live lives that are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, we stop putting bits of social media in our mouths to cover over the cracks of boredom and fears of insignificance; we stop chewing ripped up bits of the certificates of others’ approval we then use to paper over the fissures of inadequacy in our lives; and we cease chomping on the scraps of employee of the month awards earned through the sacrifice of the healthy life of our families and friendships to conceal our insecurities that we wouldn’t be enough if we stopped working and just hung out with our people.
So, today is a day we stop chewing our bits and scraps. Today is a day we identify with Jesus and His suffering. You see, all of these bits of scrap paper we chew don’t bring us life – and we know it. But, they shelter us from pain and fear and that feels a lot like life to us.
We often confuse life with the avoidance of fear and pain.
To stop, to abstain, to vulnerably allow ourselves to see our cracks, is to suffer. This is how we identify with Jesus and His suffering. This is how death happens to all things false in us. This is how life emerges through the cracks.
Where is God inviting you to abstain from chewing today?
Where is God inviting you to feast on Him instead?