By Dr. Douglas Groothuis
3. His Impoverishment for our Riches (2 Corinthians 8:9)
“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).
Advent is a season of giving based on God’s gift to us in the Incarnation, the greatest and most costly of gifts. In one sentence the Apostle Paul demonstrates how the Incarnation should motivate our generosity.
The Apostle moved easily between theological truths and moral principles in his writings, with Jesus often serving as his model. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul addressed many topics, often addressing the church’s shortcomings and outright sins. But in chapter eight, Paul takes up the issue of giving and generosity. He writes, “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving (2 Corinthians 8:7). Paul does not command them to give but rather reminds them of the generous grace of Jesus Christ, who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Paul knew how to pack titanic theological truths into a few words. This verse proves that Christ existed before his Incarnation, since Jesus was never rich in this life. As Paul wrote elsewhere of Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8).
Jesus left the riches of heaven to become a poor man. As Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Worse than that, he went to the Cross as our substitutionary sacrifice, having lost everything that he might “save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He gave his life for us that we might experience the riches of forgiveness, justification, fellowship with God, and eternal life.
May we this Advent give generously in the spirit of the one who was impoverished for our riches. Thanks be to God.