“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21)
Final words reverberate with enormous significance; sounds uttered as the body surrenders carry the weight of a lifetime. In the way Elijah’s spirit spilled onto the shoulders of Elisha, the legacy of one man’s parting words extends way beyond his own years. The apostle Paul, imprisoned in a Roman jail awaiting execution, showed us how to do this with the excellence that characterized his earthly existence.
Since his wrinkled hands could not extend beyond the prison doors, he used written words to impart his patriarchal blessing onto the head of his “beloved child.” Paul penned his final letter to his spiritual son, Timothy, and gave him nourishment that we draw sustenance from today. The challenge laid out in the middle of the book beckons us to be “vessels of honor” as opposed to dishonorable ones. What would be some of the distinguishing marks of a life that is “useful to the master” and “ready for very good work?” What are the intricate details in our daily walk that will set us apart?
Paul teaches us to be cleansed of the contamination and contagiousness of sin, to “flee” from evil like a fugitive continually on the run. He compels us to be genuinely and unreservedly willing to be of service to the Master of the house. The apostle reminds us that humility, meekness, and compassion are the hallmarks of one who resembles the Savior from the inside out.
Whether we carry the elegant refinement of a sterling silver teapot or the sturdy, practical appeal of a brown plastic mixing bowl is irrelevant. Through Paul’s final words, the Lord reminds us that he honors our wholehearted service as vessels that bear his name. He fills us with the power of his Spirit, pours himself through us, and uses us in small and grand ways because he “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
Words that are worth living by no matter our shape or size.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell