“Silly Putty, Play Dough and Potter’s Clay” (Jeremiah 18:1-6)

By | July 11, 2010

Out of the Toybox #4


     Somebody once said: “We are all made of common clay and that is why we all have the same kinds of problems.” But someone else said: “We’re all created in the same mold, only some of us are moldier than others.” (1)

     There is a place in India where their legends agree with the Bible that humankind was made from dust. But they think that the upper class (or caste) was made from the fertile soil and the lower class was made from ordinary clay. But even I know, if you are going to create pottery, you want ordinary clay, not rich fertile soil for farming. Scripture tells us, that, unlike the legends of India, you and I have the same humble origin, clay. (2)

     At the same time, the Bible also tells us that we’ve all been created in the very image of God. We may only be made of clay, but we were each, individually crafted by God’s own hand. And, it was God who breathed life into us.

     According to the Scripture this morning, Jeremiah tells us that God’s creative process is an ongoing event. Our lives are like clay on a potter’s wheel being molded and shaped by the potter’s hand. Let’s look at the passage: Jeremiah 18:1-6

[1] The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:

[2] “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”

[3] So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.

[4] The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

[5] Then the word of the Lord came to me:

[6] Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

     This passage is filled with a message of hope, for those who heed the Word of God there is blessing & a reshaping of our lives. And that’s what I want to look at this morning because, we come to God to be reshaped. And we can come to God is three different ways, as: Silly Putty, Play-Doh or Potter’s Clay.



     A. Remember Silly Putty? They still sell it. It was inducted into The National Toy Hall of Fame in March of 2001. Since its creation in 1943 and marketing as a Toy since 1950, more than 300 million eggs or 4,500 tons of the “toy with one moving part,” the “real solid liquid” have been sold. That’s enough to create a giant Silly Putty wad the size of the Goodyear Blimp.

     Silly Putty is a dilatant compound, a silicone based polymer which is pliable, stretchable and shapeable. It can be formed into a ball and bounce. It can pick up comics in full color and then let “you stretch them into something funnier.” (3)

     They say it doesn’t stick to surfaces or stain. That may be true, but you don’t want to lay it down on a big weave knit sweater like my oldest son did to one of my sweaters. It doesn’t come out.

     B. So, what does Silly Putty have to do with our faith. Well, some folks are like this little toy. And you’d think that was a good thing. And it is, sort of.  You see, Silly Putty is pliable, exactly what God wants with our lives. It can be shaped into ball so when troubles come we can bounce back. And when applied to the written word or the comics it will make an exact copy of what’s there. And that would be a good thing, especially for Bible Study.

     Unfortunately, Silly Putty is too pliable. And it’s too stretchable. Once you’ve picked up the picture or the words, they almost stretch out of shape before you’ve gotten them off the paper. And while Silly Putty is very pliable, it doesn’t hold its shape. You can make a vase or a pot and let it sit for awhile and before long, it’s just a blob.

     There are folks like that. Their faith and lives get shaped on Sunday mornings, they feel like they can bounce back from anything the world throws at them. They even pick up both the Scripture and the message and carry an imprint of them on their heart.

     But then they get to the office or with friends and they start picking up the imprint of other ideas and pretty soon you can’t even see the scripture anymore. And they are so pliable, that the least little nudge and they’re out of shape. And pretty soon, they’re just a little blob again.


     A. Then there’s Play-Doh. Remember getting that new can of Play-Doh? There is no other smell quite like that, is there. Play-doh was first sold in 1956 and came in a 1 ½ lb tub in only one color, off-white. In 1957 three more colors were added, yellow, red and blue. And the three can pack was introduced on both Miss Frances’ Ding Dong School and Captain Kangaroo.

     Play-Doh is basically a mixture of water, salt and flour. If combined, the total amount of Play-Doh manufactured since 1956 would weigh more than 700 million pounds. That’s a little more than the weight of the Empire State Building! More than 2 billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold since 1956. And if all the Play-Doh made since 1956 was made into a “snake” it would wrap around the world more than 300 times, or travel to the moon and back more than 32 times! (4)

     B. So, what does Play-Doh have to do with our faith? Well, just like Silly Putty, some of us are like Play-Doh. Play-Doh is pliable and shapeable. It doesn’t bounce, it just kind makes a thud and splat when it hits. And it doesn’t transfer images or words like Silly Putty. But it does keep it’s shape.

     You can make almost anything out of Play-Doh. All you have to do is let your imagination go wild. I love watching my grandsons, Zach, Nate and Evan, play with Play-Doh.

     The only problem with Play-Doh is that it’s not made for creating permanent objects. “Play-Doh is designed to be used over and over again. If allowed to harden (to preserve a creation) it will most likely crack.” (5) That’s right from their website.

     So, if you make a pitcher or a cup or even a vase out Play-Doh and it cracks, that means it won’t hold water. The same thing is true for some Christians. Their life and faith has been molded by God but they offered up the wrong substance. They only came into it half-heartedly. They sort of Play the part but they don’t really live the part. As a consequence, pretty soon their faith and their lives dry out and they begin to crack. And before long, their faith no longer holds water.


     A. And that brings us to Potter’s Clay. I couldn’t afford the 50 pound box of Potter’s Clay I found, so I’m using a Terra Cotta oven bake clay which has many of the same properties as Potter’s Clay.

     Potter’s Clay is pliable and shapeable. It needs moisture for the molding process. It doesn’t bounce but in its pliable state it doesn’t break either. Unlike Silly Putty it holds its shape. And unlike Play-Doh, it not only holds its shape but it doesn’t crack when it dries.  You can preserve your creation.

     B. As you can see, Potter’s Clay Christians are those who come and give themselves completely into God’s hands. They are like Potter’s Clay. They put their lives into the Potter’s hands and let God mold them and make them into a useful vessel for God’s service.

     They are pliable and shapeable. The water of their baptism keeps them moist enough to be worked by the gentleness, care and expertise of the Potter’s Hand. Potter’s Clay may not bounce but that’s OK because the Potter is a very careful artisan who protects the clay as He is shaping and molding.

     And Potter’s Clay keeps its shape. Not only does it keep its shape but can be painted upon and decorated by the Creator to become a beautiful work of art or left plain and ordinary. But in either case, whether beautiful or ordinary, exquisite or functional, it’s God who chooses and both can be useful tools.

     And, whereas, heat breaks down the properties of both Silly Putty and Play-Doh, heat is needed to complete the process of the creation of pottery. Clay pots, vases, cups etc have to be fired and hardened so they can become useful.

     And in a sense, so do we. Sometimes we think the trials and tribulations of life are there to break us. I think sometimes they are there not to break us but to shape us and maybe even to “bake us” and fire us into the useful tool which God has chose us to be. Sometimes it’s only after we’ve been through the fire or through in the crucible that we can offer help and assistance to someone who is going through hard times. We can help because we are stronger for having been through it, and God is uses us to help them.


     I realize that all analogies eventually break if pushed too far, the same thing can be said here. But you get the point. How we give ourselves to God determines the kind of medium God has to mold. We can be Silly Putty, Play-Doh or Potter’s Clay in God’s Hand.

     God wants us to be Potter’s Clay in his hands. Oh, God can still shape us and form us if we’re Silly Putty or Play-Doh. But what God really needs is for us to give ourselves to Him completely through Christ who died on the cross for our sakes. He’s our example of giving our complete selves.

     We’re challenged and called to become Potter’s Clay and put our lives in his hands.

     I want to close with Wesley’s Covenant Prayer because it’s my favorite Wesleyan prayer and it speaks of giving ourselves totally and completely to God’s formation. I want you to join me. You can find it on page 607 of your Hymnal or follow along on the screen.

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low by thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.


     Remember this, our God is a God of miracles. God can take a lump of clay and transform it into a diamond. God can take a lump of clay and fashion into a living human being. God can take your life and make it a useful tool for God’s Kingdom. You may think you’re only Silly Putty or Play-Doh. You may not think you have anything to give or that God doesn’t think you’re worth the effort but you’re wrong. Nothing is impossible for God because God loves you. God simply wants to be the Potter in your life, shaping who you are through the presence of Christ and the Power of the Holy Spirit.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.



1.   Autoillustrator

2.   Preaching, Vol. 11, No.2

3.   http://www.sillyputty.com

4.   http://www.hasbro.com/playdoh/

5.   http://www.hasbro.com/playdoh/