There’s a story about a woman who had a beautiful ring. It was her prize possession since it had been past down to her from generations of family. As the lady grew older and approached the time for her departing this life, she called her oldest daughter to her to pass on the ring to her daughter. Of course the girl had heard about the ring since she was little but her mother never took it out to show her. On this special occasion the mom reached under her pillow and pulled out an old, rusted box with a broken hinge and a glasp that no longer worked. As the mother gently removed the cover, inside was the precious heirloom. When her daughter asked her why she kept something so precious in something so worn out, the mother said words that stayed with the daughter the rest of her life: “My dear, this old, broken, and rusted box is part of the treasure precisely because it holds something so valuable!
Look at our Lesson today in 2 Corinthians 4:6-15:
Brethren, it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. 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. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we too believed, and so we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
St. Paul reminds these believers in Corinth that we too, hold a treasure in “earthen vessels.” We believers in Christ possess a treasure of faith that might not be so clear to everyone, especially in the person who holds this treasure. Some of us really don’t look like we deserve to possess such a treasure and yet we do.
But what is the evidence that these “earthen vessels” hold such a treasure?
It’s seen as these people endure no matter what life throws at them. It isn’t in the prosperity of temporary riches that God shows just who has His treasure of faith and blessings. All those temporary comforts fade or can be stolen or can be lost. No, the treasure of faith is held in vessels that realize what they possess and they treasure it, care for it, nurture it, and value it to the point that no matter how they are treated, they remain faithful. The world thinks they are fools for enduring when all they would have to do is “value the treasure less” and they’d be more acceptable to the world around them. All they would have to do is compromise “just a little” and then they could be popular or comfortable. But those who really value the treasure of Faith refuse because they know that the treasure of Faith is more valuable than temporary comfort. And how do they know this? Because they believe with all their hearts that death has been defeated by Jesus Christ! And if death is defeated, to give up on the Faith for the temporary comforts of today would be the greatest foolishness ever!
Today, yes, you are an “earthen vessel” frail, sometimes weak, and even easily broken, but you possess a treasure that makes your earthen vessel part of that treasure! You, because of this treasure of Faith, participate in the life of Jesus Christ. So, when you’re tempted to compromise or take a shortcut or just be unmindful of the faith, stop, remember the Prodigal Son and never leave the Father’s side! Pass this treasure of faithfulness to your children and they will be able to be Orthodox on Purpose too!