For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
This Christmas, ponder the astounding generosity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this famous verse, the Apostle Paul assumes the pre-existence of Jesus: that, before coming into this world, He was rich — enjoying the wonders of heaven.
But He laid aside His majesty; He came into our world. Right from His birth His circumstances were humble and difficult: I have never heard of another baby laid in a cattle trough! Then there was the flight to Egypt, the rejection by the very people He’d grown up with in Nazareth, the work so hard that He slept with exhaustion even in a storm at sea, the relentless pressure of the crowds, the slowness of the disciples to understand, the constant opposition from the religious authorities, the sham trial, the mockery and finally His brutal execution. All these were the earthly experience of the man who came from Heaven.
As one of our carols put it, taking its inspiration from this verse: “Thou who was rich beyond all splendour, yet for our sakes becamest poor.”
And it was for our sakes: it was that we might become rich, as Paul puts it. As in many places in his letters, Paul uses the language of exchange. His loss was for our gain. His poverty, for our riches.
For Jesus came into our world to die: and on that Roman cross, He willingly atoned for our sins, so that all who trust in Him might know free forgiveness and adoption into God’s family. And what riches come from that! The present riches of knowing God, and unimaginable future riches in His presence for ever.
Paul assumes his readers — in the ancient Greek city of Corinth — knew this: For you know is how he starts. It is elementary Christianity. But we cannot be reminded of it enough. And Paul has a practical reason for doing so. The chapter in which he writes this is an appeal for funds — he’s raising cash among better-off Gentile churches to support struggling Jewish Christians, affected by a famine.
So Paul holds before them the model of the greatest Giver ever. It is because of Him and His gift that generosity should mark the Christian.
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