James E. Woods

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What Kind of a Special Vessel Are You?

What Kind of a Special Vessel Are You?

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth….
2 Timothy 2:20

There are many different roles in God’s Kingdom, and each role is significant and important. The devil often tells people that their role is not important because it is less visible than the role of others. Let me address that misconception by first telling you about an experience I had many years ago in an antique store that specialized in ancient relics.

When I looked at the shelves of the antique store, I was amazed at the many antiquities that appeared to have been sitting there for decades and were covered with a thick film of dust. An archeologist’s treasure trove, this shop was also a housekeeper’s nightmare because it hadn’t been cleaned in years! I sneezed as I accidentally breathed in dust while rubbing my hand across the front of a beautiful vase I had taken from a high shelf.

From where I was standing, it appeared to me that the higher shelves were loaded with interesting historical items, such as vases of marble, jasper, and alabaster. I grabbed a stepladder and stretched upward on my toes so I could peer deeper into the cache of relics on that top shelf — and there I discovered genuine Roman antiquities made of silver and gold. Astonishment is the only word I know to describe the intense emotion that rushed through me as I reached out to take hold of those precious artifacts.

The lower shelves were also filled with memories from the ancient world, but these were primarily items made from stone and clay. I saw pottery from the Iron Age, oil lamps from the Byzantine period that had been dug from the soil of Israel, and authentic pottery from the ancient city of Corinth that was still completely intact.


As I stood back and looked at the floor all around me, I could see that I was surrounded by less expensive ancient items that were primarily made from wood, such an ancient harness used for oxen, feeding troughs, and Egyptian baskets of woven ancient reeds from the Nile River. The thought hit me strongly that whether these different objects were made of superior or relatively inferior material, they had all successfully endured the test of time and survived thousands of years.

I pondered all these objects for a moment, wondering:

  • Who had owned these objects?
  • How had they been originally used?
  • Who were the wealthy people who owned the gold and silver objects?
  • How had the precious items been originally displayed in the palaces of the rich?

When I picked up the items made of wood and clay, I could still see stains that remained from ancient times. I wondered:

  • Who had used these wooden and clay utensils?
  • Had they been a part of a kitchen?
  • Were they originally used in some type of workroom?
  • Were some of these ancient items once used in someone’s barn?

Before me were vessels of gold, silver, stone, wood, and clay, all of which had survived the test of time and now sat in that shop as a reminder of a people from the ancient past. The rich, the poor, the upper class, the lower class, the educated, the uneducated, old and young — all the various classes of society were represented in the array of utensils and articles before me that day.

When I saw this amazing mixture of gold, silver, wood, and earthen vessels, my thoughts went to Paul’s words to Timothy, where he told the younger minister, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth: and some to honor, and some to dishonor” (2 Timothy 2:20).

I want you to notice that Paul began this verse by writing about “a great house.” At this point, Paul reached into the secular world and borrowed an example to make his point. In his mind, he recalled the magnificent homes that belonged to the rich upper class. When he wrote about a “great” house, he used the word megale. The word megale depicts something very large. The word “house” is oikos, the regular word for a house. But when the words oikos megale are used together, it no longer refers to just a regular residence or house like any citizen would live in. Now it paints the picture of a very large house.

Remnants of large, elegant residences from Paul’s day are still evident today in cities like Rome, Athens, Pompeii, and ancient Ephesus. Such homes belonged to the wealthy upper class and were both splendid and grandiose. Paul used the illustration of these impressive houses to depict the majesty of God’s house, which is the grandest and greatest of them all.

Paul went on to say that just as in the large homes of the wealthy, in God’s house, “…There are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth….”

The word “vessels” is the Greek word skeuos. It refers to a vessel, container, or utensil. In ancient times, there was a wide array of skeuos, and each had a specific and designated purpose. The word skeuos could be used to depict utensils, agricultural instruments, baggage, equipment of various sorts, vases used in worship, kitchen items, and elegant articles of gold and silver put on public display.

Vessels made from “wood and earth” were usually functional items used for everyday household chores. The wooden items were also used as containers for water, flour, oil, or wine. Vessels fashioned from “gold and silver” were evidently intended for exhibition and therefore displayed in visible places in the homes of the rich. Gold and silver objects were meant to be seen and appreciated rather than serve a practical function.

There is no doubt that Paul was describing real gold and silver vessels, because he used the word chrusos, the Greek word for gold, and the word arguros, the Greek word for silver. The Greek word for “wood” is zulina, which describes any vessel made of wood. The word “earth” is the Greek word ostrakinos, which refers to pottery. (For a deeper study of the word ostrakinos, see the February 13 Gem in Sparkling Gems 1.) What a variety of vessels we see in this verse!

With this example, Paul teaches us that all kinds of vessels and people are needed in God’s house. Imagine how dysfunctional a house would be if all the vessels in it were made of gold, silver, precious stones, or highly priced porcelain. You couldn’t function in such a house! In fact, you would probably be afraid to even move about in a house where everything was made of precious materials. For a house to function normally, it needs regular pots and pans. The utensils in the kitchen may not receive the same adulation as the more elegant objects displayed in the living room showcase, but kitchen utensils are indispensable for the proper functioning of a household. Just try cooking bacon and eggs in porcelain vases or with utensils made of gold and silver, and you’ll be quickly reminded how important regular ol’ pots and pans are!

By using such imagery, Paul let us know that all kinds of vessels — people with different functions and roles — are needed in God’s house. Although they are different from each other, each is important and special. Each serves a specific purpose. Just as was true with the vessels of the fabulous ancient homes, in God’s house there must be many different kinds of people with different positions, functions, and purposes. In fact, His house is filled to overflowing with human vessels whose various gifts and talents are essential to the effective functioning of God’s house. Some people have visible positions; other people have less visible positions. But each person is vital to the operations of God’s house.

As you ponder your own role in God’s house, it is important for you to remember that some people’s roles are more visible, while others have a less visible part to play. Yet everyone’s role is vital and of great consequence. If those working behind the scenes didn’t do their part, those with more visible roles wouldn’t be able to do their parts.

Human beings tend to glamorize people who perform on the stage, but entertainers wouldn’t seem so glamorous if they had no makeup artists to prepare them. They wouldn’t shine so brightly if there were no lighting specialists to light up the stage. Their voices would be unheard if there were no sound technicians. The makeup artists, lighting specialists, and sound technicians are unseen, but I guarantee you that their absence would be noticed if they didn’t do their jobs! They are all vital for the show to go on!

So don’t let the devil badger you into thinking your role is not important because it is less visible than others. Your part is very important in God’s house!

There are many different roles in God’s Kingdom, and each role is significant and important. Maybe your role is visible, or maybe yours is behind the scenes. Regardless of the role you have right now, consider it an honor that God would use you in His house! I encourage you to say yes to the role God has given you at this time. Throw open your arms, embrace it, and hold it close. Take deep into your heart the place of service to which God has assigned you for this season. Master that position — fulfilling its responsibilities with an excellent attitude — and then watch Him move you to higher levels of responsibility according to His will and His purposes for your life!


Father, I thank You for speaking to me so strongly today about my role in Your House. I admit that in the past, there have been times when I was tempted to think that I was less important than others because my role wasn’t as visible as theirs. But now I understand that my part in Your house is just as vital as those who are more public, for without my role, it would be much harder for them to do what You have called them to do. I ask You to give me grace to embrace, hold close, and take deep into my heart the position You have given me at this time in my life. Help me master it and fulfill my part in a way that is helpful to others and that honors and glorifies You

I pray this in Jesus’ name!



I confess that I am thankful for the role I have in God’s house. I am not a complainer or one who bemoans the task that has been given to me. I fulfill my role with a happy heart, as unto the Lord, knowing that I will answer to Him for the assignment He has given me. Because I do my part, others are able to do their part. We are a team, and each of us is very important to the proper functioning of God’s household. I appreciate my role; I value those who have different roles than mine; and I am known as a person who expresses my gratitude to others for what they do in God’s house.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!


  1. Have you ever been frustrated with the task that has been given to you in God’s house? Did you think your role was less important than others’ tasks because yours was only a supportive role? After reading today’s Sparkling Gem, how has your attitude changed toward the supportive role you have been given?
  2. Can you think of someone you know who is infected with “star sickness” and who treats others badly if they don’t hold a prominent position? What have you learned by observing this person’s inappropriate treatment of other people? Through observation, what have you learned that you never want to do to other people who have less visible roles than yourself?
  3. Has the Holy Spirit spoken to you today about embracing your place in God’s house? What changes do you need to make in your attitude to be successful in your present role in His Kingdom?

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