You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
How can we live rich, full lives? How can we flourish at work and at home, at church and in the community? 2 Corinthians 8 answers these questions by drawing out implications of the Incarnation of Christ.
Second Corinthians 8 is a first-century fund-raising letter (or, a fund-raising chapter in a long letter, at any rate). The Apostle Paul wrote this chapter to encourage the Corinthian Christians to contribute to his collection for the financially strapped Christians in Jerusalem. In fact, the Corinthians had begun to support this charitable work (8:6, 10). Now it was time for them to finish what they had begun.
Paul began to motivate the Corinthians by pointing to the extraordinary example of the Macedonian Christians (perhaps the Philippians or the Thessalonians). Even though they were facing difficult times and struggling with financial hardships, the Macedonians gave joyfully and generously (8:1-2). As an additional motivation, Paul appealed to the Corinthians’ sense of honor, especially with respect to their desire for excellence (8:7-8).
But then Paul played his theological trump card, pointing to the example of Christ himself: “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (8:9). The grace of Christ is revealed in his Incarnation. He once “was rich” in that he enjoyed all the perks of deity (see Phil. 2:6-7). Yet Christ “became poor” by becoming a human being. It’s not just that he was born into a family that didn’t have much money. Christ’s “poverty” in this text is his very humanity. When you go from being fully God to being fully human and fully God, that’s quite a sacrifice, a move from essential richness to essential poverty.
Yet notice why Christ chose to make this sacrifice. He did it, Paul writes to the Corinthians, “for your sakes” (di’ humas, 8:9). In particular, he became poor so that the Corinthians might become rich. This richness was all-inclusive. It surely referred to the benefits of salvation and the gifts of the Spirit. But, in context, it also referred to the financial blessings God had poured out upon the Corinthians. And it suggested that their richness was not just having money, but sharing it generously with others.
Second Corinthians 8 reminds us of how Christ, through his Incarnation, has blessed us beyond measure. This passage also urges us to be generous in sharing with others what we have so graciously received.
Living Christmasly means joyfully and faithfully receiving God’s gift of Christ. It means marveling at the sacrificial grace of Christ and living in this grace each day. When we do, we will become people of generosity, freely sharing with others what God has so richly given us in Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How does the metaphor of Christ’s becoming poor in the Incarnation speak to you? Are you enjoying Christ’s grace in your life by giving it away to others? Is there a specific act of generous giving that God is calling you to today?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, how we thank you for your willingness to give up so much to become human. Thank you for your choice to become poor so that we might be rich in you.
You know, Lord, how easy it is for us to receive your blessings but then hold onto them. Help us to be people who imitate your act of generous giving. As we have received financial blessings from you, may we share them freely with others. As we have been gifted by your Spirit, may we serve people in your church and in the world. As we have received the outpouring of your love, may we love our neighbors and even our enemies.
Help me this very day, Lord, to be rich in you by giving away your blessings to others. Amen.