The Potter and His Cup: An Allegory on Rebellion

If I were to craft a pot from clay, what would my motivation be? Maybe, I am thirsty and desire to drink from a cup rather than lapping water like a dog. Perhaps, I simply enjoy the process of making it, so I craft for the pure joy that it brings to my soul. Or, yet, I need some money, so I craft with the hope of selling. Still, it is possible I actually dislike the process of making a pot from clay, but I do indeed delight in gazing upon the finished vessel as it sits upon a shelf, so I make it with the future purpose in mind. The list can go on and on. However, what you will never find included on this list are the words, “I created the pot for the pot.” That notion is ridiculous.

God did not create this universe for us. He did not create us for us, just as the potter does not make the pot for the pot, but the pot for the potter. Indeed, a pot is a non-personal, inanimate object that lacks feeling and desire, so the metaphor is of less equivalence. But, the presupposition is the same. God created for Himself. The fantastic reality, though, is that our ability to craft falls madly short of God’s ability to create. We cannot create like God. We create for our enjoyment and our needs, and it stops there. But, God is capable of creating for His pleasure and, also, for the joy of His creation. He is capable of creating personality. We are created for God, from God, and through God — but, also, to enjoy and worship God.

Imagine a cup meticulously crafted by a potter. The potter delights in his cup as it displays his artistry and ingenuity. He delights in using the cup for drinking water. But, imagine now, the cup has personality and feelings, and the cup enjoys being used by the potter to fulfill the purpose the potter intended for it. The cup delights in being filled with water and drank from. The cup experiences the most satisfaction when it is used according to its design. The potter is most glorified when the cup is used according to its design as it expresses purpose and meaning. Unfortunately, one day, the cup rebels.

The cup desires to be a door holder. It thinks to live “freely” — not according to its design and purpose — is better. It believes the potter is restrictive and oppressive. It feels hatred toward the potter for setting boundaries. Who is the potter, anyway, to say that the cup can only be used as a cup? What if the cup wants to be a hammer, or a paperweight, or a chair, or a cooking pot? How could the potter deny such freedom to his cup, the freedom to express itself in any way it wants to. Is not the potter loving? Would he not allow the cup to do anything it wants? Oh, how foolish an idea.

So, the cup goes its own way. The potter allows this for a short time. The cup feels a sense of gratification, but it passes as quickly as it came. It tries being a doorstop, but it soon is chipped and unable to hold a door properly. It goes from job to job, identity to identity, experiencing moments of gratification, but only to be followed by feelings of severe emptiness and pain. It is broken beyond repair. It no longer can function as a cup. It cannot hold water. It forgets what it is like to be drank from. It forgets its maker. Deep down, it knows it is made with purpose and meaning, but it suppresses that knowledge with hatred and pride. It tells itself there is no way a maker, who crafted it with purpose, care, and meaning, exists. Even if it were true, it loves its freedom. It loves believing it is autonomous. It enjoys partaking in forbidden behaviors, even though they leave it broken and empty.

The potter sees all of its rebellion and toil. The potter hears the cursing. The potter watches as it whores itself away to purposeless tasks and jobs. The potter cannot tolerate such disobedience and rebellion, such wickedness. Thus, the potter sets a day when he will no longer tolerate this evil. What is this cup, anyway? Just a piece of clay. It is dust. And, to dust, it will return. The cup thinks it will not be judged, even though it wrestles daily with suppressed guilt.

The potter is good. The potter delights in good things, for he is righteous. Therefore, the potter loves when a cup is filled with water and drank from, and he hates when a cup is thrown on the ground and, instead, used as a door holder. One day, while the cup is going its own way — whoring itself away to dishonorable passions and behaviors — a hand, as though from nowhere, grabs it against its will. It is no match for this hand. The hand has complete control over it. It cannot fight; it cannot resist. It is the hand of the maker. The hand of the potter which took the cup, a mere lump of clay, and formed it with purpose and meaning. It is the same hand that used to fill the cup full to the brim and drink from it joyfully. It is the hand that the cup once delighted in supremely. The hand that fits so perfectly around the handle. And, it fits so perfectly because the potter formed the handle. He formed the handle to fit his hand and his hand alone. But, something is wrong.

No longer is this hand-holding the cup with delight and favor, but rather with wrath and fiery. The hand, which was once the source of complete security and belonging, is now the most terrifying and horrific place imaginable. The cup, no longer denying, knows the hidden feeling of guilt has come to its fulfillment. Judgment is imminent. The potter walks the cup to the trash and throws it amongst all the other things that no longer fulfill their purpose. Here, in the trash, is where it finds its ultimate doom. Hell is the name inscribed on this trash can. And, inside, there is a worm which never stops eating its fill, and a flame that never stops burning its occupants. Horrifyingly, the dreadful conditions of the trash never end or cease. The garbage in Hell is never annihilated or consumed, but faces punishment day after day with no hope of mercy.

There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Those inside rot, but never rot away; burn, but are never fully consumed. So ends the story of the potter and his cup. It is not a happy ending. But — wait — that is not the end to the story, after all.

It so happens that the potter made many cups. All the cups did, indeed, go their own way. They all rebelled and whored themselves away to the fleeting and wicked passions of the kitchen. They all become broken and empty, unable to hold water. All were on the path of judgment, soon to be tossed in the trash for eternity. But, the potter had something else in mind. Did he not create these cups to delight in drinking from? And, did he not craft them in such a way that they could only be satisfied by being drank from by the potter himself? Most importantly, despite the tattered condition of each cup, the potter does not desire to go without a cup to drink from.

Thus, out of his goodness and mercy, he plucks some from their dead rebellion, brings them back to true understanding, mends their cracks and holes, shows them the vanity of their ways, and allows them to delight, once again, in being held by his hand as he drinks from their brim. As they look back at their days of wickedness, they are struck with reality; how could they have ever settled for the mere role of a doorstop, thinking it was satisfying? As they live, once again, according to their design, they feel a rush of joy and indebtedness to the potter for not only crafting them from clay and giving them purpose, but for saving them and restoring them to that purpose after their evil rebellion. And, so ends the story — the happy story — of God’s undeserving grace for His chosen.