Growing up, my Mom had all kinds of jars around the house. She used most of them for canning vegetables in the summer. But she had other jars for other purposes: her spare button jar, her loose change jar, her spice tea jar, her sun tea jar, her jars for drinking sun tea, her cotton ball jar, and lots of other jars. 

Jars are useful for holding things. They’re designed to be filled. They’re functional. And even though Pinterest probably has all kinds of decorative ideas for jars, they’re primarily utilitarian. 

The apostle Paul compared Christians to jars: “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2.20-21).

I suspect that most of us don’t spend our days contemplating the nature of being jar-like. Nonetheless, the analogy is useful. By way of application, I’d like for you to think about three things that can help you be, in Paul’s words, “a vessel of honor”.

First, jars come in all sizes, shapes, and materials. Different jars have different qualities and uses. That’s to be expected because that’s what makes them so incredibly useful. In the same way, Christians have different qualities and uses. No two Christians are exactly alike. Each of us brings different gifts, abilities, experiences, knowledge levels, maturity, and insight to the kingdom. Each of us has a place in the body of Christ. As the apostle Paul said elsewhere, “For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12.14).

Second, jars exist to be filled. The Bible speaks of being filled by God with many things. We’re to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5.18). Filled with joy (2 Timothy 1.4). Filled with knowledge (Colossians 1.9). Filled with righteousness (Philippians 1.11). Filled with comfort (2 Corinthians 7.4). Filled with the fullness of God himself (Ephesians 3.19). These are the things God gives to us in our relationship to him. We can’t achieve them ourselves, we can’t buy them, and we really can’t even control them. 

Third, and most importantly, jars must first be empty before they can be filled. When we’re full our ourselves, there’s no room to be filled with God or by God. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9.23). We must empty ourselves of pride, worry, materialism, worldly ambition, busyness, doubt, lust, greed, anger. All the sinful things that occupy space in our hearts, we must empty.

God does the filling, but we do the emptying. If you want to be filled, start with an empty jar.