2 Cor. 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars (vessel, Greek skeuos) of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1 Pet 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner (vessel, Greek skeuos) and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
What does these texts have in common? They both speak of weak vessels with a great spiritual gift inside. (In the first case the spiritual gift inside the vessel is called a “treasure”, in the second it is called “the gracious gift of life”.) The same Greek word is used. It is used elsewhere in the Bible for literal containers like, for example, clay pots.
I think honoring a weaker vessel with an equally good gift inside goes like this:
I buy two paper packets of sugar. (The same useful thing inside the packs, the same weak containers.) When just past the till, I put my sugar into a bag. I accidently put my finger through the side of the one sugar packet.
I now have a weaker vessel: Both packets are equally valuable for what is inside them, but one packet could spill more easily. I carry that packet in my hand, making sure the holed side is on top and not in any direction that could make the sugar spill. I take no similar care of the other packet. That swings around in the bag on my arm, and I am completely unaware which side is up on the intact sugar packet.
At home, the first grocery item to be unpacked is the weak vessel: I find a plastic container for sugar and save the sugar in this packet.
How are we weak vessels in 2 Cor. 4? We are hard pressed, perplexed and persecuted. (:8-9) We are wasting away outwardly (:16). But that is not the most significant fact about us: We have a treasure. We have eternal glory. The glorious treasure is the thing we should fix our eyes on, not the weakness of the vessel carrying the treasure.
How is the woman the weaker vessel in 1 Peter 3:7? She, in first century culture, was a lot more “hard pressed, perplexed and persecuted,” with fewer rights before the law. She died earlier when childbirth was still a common cause of death. But she is a fellow heir to the gracious gift of life: She has the same great treasure inside. The way to honour her is to not look at the weakness of the vessel, but to make sure the great gift inside her is respected. After all, that is the Christian attitude towards all of the weak vessels, male and female, who share spiritual life with us: Do not judge anyone by the outward things, by weakness or strength or poverty or riches.
Perhaps it even means to take special care to ensure the good gifts inside her is used and nurtured, like I took special care with the sugar in the damaged packet in my (fictitious) example. (Perhaps using and nurturing her great gifts from God even means ensuring that she gets out of the kitchen and home, doing things like preaching, and not just things the non-Christian women could do equally well? But that is speculation.)
Its not the weakness of the vessel that counts. It is honouring the great gift inside.