Saturday, 3 October 2015
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
Context is important to understand Paul’s introduction of this verse. He has been speaking to the Corinthians about giving for the collection of the saints in Jerusalem. He has mentioned the extreme poverty of those in Macedonia, but that they gave in an immense way out of their poverty. Now, to show the highest form of giving ever known, he turns to the greatest example of it; that of Christ Jesus.
He begins with “For you know.” The message of what Christ did was known to the Corinthians, but now Paul will explain it in a new way to them, unpackaging the mystery of Christ in a way which will hopefully spur them on to a great demonstration of giving as well. Expanding on his words we read, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In verse 7, he said this to them –
“But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also.”
In order to show them how to conduct themselves “in this grace also” he reminds them of the same type of grace seen in the Lord. This then is speaking less of the theological idea of grace and more of the act of generosity and giving which he mentioned to the Corinthians in verse 7. And so we could paraphrase this, “For you know the generous giving of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In explanation of this, he says “that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.” This is something that we often think about when considering Christ, but not in any specific sense. And so Paul says it directly to help us think it through directly. He possessed all of heavens riches, power, and authority, and yet he voluntarily gave it all up for our sakes.
The Greek word for “He became poor” is in the aorist tense and it therefore refers to the very moment when He became a Man. He set aside all of the glory and splendor of heaven and united with the dust which He created. He became weak and poor in order to demonstrate His love for us. The word “poor” is defined by HELPS Word Studies –
“…to become utterly poor (destitute); hence, to become extremely vulnerable (“helpless“).”
As a human baby, He lay utterly helpless. As a child of Joseph and Mary, He was in such poverty that the sacrifice recorded in Luke 2, which is offered for purification according to the law, was “two turtledoves.” Such a sacrifice was allowed for the very poorest people of the land who could not afford a lamb offering (see Leviticus 12:8).
From His entrance into the world, and for the rest of His life, He remained completely poor, even as a beggar would live. In Luke 8:3, it says that there were certain women “and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” This state of abject poverty was the state of His life and yet in John 16:15, He told the apostles that “all things that the Father has are mine.” In His earthly life, heaven’s riches were set aside in order to accomplish His mission for the very creatures who had continuously shunned Him. His state of going from heaven’s throne to the footstool of the earth is well summed up in Philippians 2:6-8.
Paul finishes his word to them showing that all of this was accomplished so “that you through His poverty might become rich.” Those at Corinth may have wondered what type of giving would be appropriate. Paul showed them that the ultimate example of giving is found in Christ who had redeemed them. There is no amount they could give that would ever be truly exhausted. They had been raised to heaven itself and to all of its riches because of Christ Jesus. Their true wealth would never end and so whatever they gave would not affect them in any permanent sense.
Life application: Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning giving. In doing so, he wrote to us also. We are included in that epistle if we have called on Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should remember that Christ gave up everything for us in order to live in this temporary world. As this is so, we should have no problem giving up any part of this temporary world because He has given all things to us. We have an eternal future with an everlasting fount of riches ahead of us.
Heavenly Father, Christ Jesus my Lord gave up all things in order to redeem me from this fallen world. He gave up heaven’s riches itself; coming and living a life of abject poverty so that I could become rich. And I am! I have eternal life ahead of me which contains an everlasting fount of wealth bubbling up from it. Because of this, help me to not get stuck in the temporary and fading wealth of this world. Help me to give freely of myself, my abilities, and my possessions. May the life I live for Jesus be an acknowledgment of my gratitude for the life He lived for me. Amen.