From Riches to Rags to Riches
Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:9
I want to share with you a rags to riches story! But not a typical one. Normally a “rags to riches” story speaks of someone who was poor, then became rich—either through hard work, or some good fortune—but here in 2 Corinthians 8:9 we have a “riches to rags to riches” story.
We should note 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 have to do with giving. Two words are used repeatedly throughout this section. The words “grace” and “gracious” appear 7 times! The words “gift,” “given,” “gave,” and “giver” show up 8 Times. The term “grace” has been defined as “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.” Whoever came up with that acrostic might have used this very verse ‘cause that’s exactly what the verse is talking about. Christ’s expense=”though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor.” God’s riches=”that you through HIs poverty might become rich.”
He was rich. In what sense? His estate from eternity has been heaven’s glory. He’s been the object of angelic worship (John 17:4). He is self-existent creator of all things. If all things have come into existence through Him, how rich must He be! He was (and is) richer than the wealthiest of Kings. He was and is perfect in every way. Yet in love He deliberately stepped down from heaven and made Himself poor for us. You ask, “In what manner did He become poor?”
He became poor. There was no place for Him in the inn. His crib was a feeding trough. None of the religious elite, or powerful came to acknowledge His birth. His mother and father were but humble folks. Soon after His birth His family was forced to flee to Egypt. Jesus was poor in His life. He associated with lowly folk. He had no earthly riches. His disciples were ordinary men. He once said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him” (Isaiah 53:2). He had no bank account. No elaborate wardrobe. He traveled by foot. He was impoverished, yet He gave. He taught. He healed. He raised people from the dead. He fed the 5000. He, who said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” was always giving. He lived as a servant (Mark 10:45; John 13:1-20). Jesus had enemies. They conspired against Him. He was arrested and put on trial. There was no one to defend Him. He had friends, yet they deserted Him. He made His way to the cross alone. They stripped him of His clothing. He was crucified naked to a cross. The crowds who yelled “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” now mock Him. The religious leaders mock Him. The soldiers make fun of Him. People pass by and insult Him. Jesus is crucified between two common thieves; they mock Him too.
He had submitted Himself to the Father’s will. He loved the Father and the Father loved Him. For all eternity they’ve existed in perfect fellowship. Yet as He is dying there on the cross and the sins of the world are put upon Him, he cries out “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He is utterly bereft. Naked, on that cross, soon to die for crimes not His own, He is abandoned and alone. He is bankrupt in every way, but especially in that which mattered most to Him—His relationship to the Father. He is the antithesis of a rags to riches story. He went from riches to rags. He gave and gave and when He had given everything, but His life, He gave that too. He did it on purpose. It was no accident. The Father gave the Son (John 3:16). The Son gave Himself (Galatians 2:20).
See Him there hanging on the cross? The Scriptures declare “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). Our Lord is cursed, impoverished, naked, all alone, devoid of righteousness bearing sins not His own (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is as Martin Luther once said, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.” Indeed!
So that you by his poverty might become rich. Paul speaks to believers when He speaks of the riches we now possess in Christ. He is speaking not of the financial kind; He is speaking of spiritual prosperity. Every believer in Christ has a rags to riches story to tell. Each one has gone from being spiritually bankrupt to being spiritually wealthy in Christ. From being dead in sins and trespasses, to being made alive in Christ. From being without God and without hope, now possessing both in Him. From being children of wrath, yet given the right to become children of God. Being poor in Spirit, but now possessing unsearchable riches in Christ. Though a person be incredibly rich in this world, they are nevertheless poor in the eyes of God (Matthew 16:26). But even the poorest believer is incredibly rich in Christ, in that which matters for eternity (Revelation 2:9). “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 8:9)! Amazing grace! How blessed we are!
Lord Jesus, how amazing Your grace! That You left the the glory of heaven to come to this sin-needy world is reason enough to praise You. But then to deliberately impoverish Yourself for our sakes, so that we might be made rich in You–it is a sacrifice that transcends our ability to understand! Its entirely because of who You are and what You’ve done that we find ourselves in this blessed estate! Having so richly received from You, may we follow Your example, esteeming it to be better to give than to receive. That You might be honored in our lives in that way!
AND CAN IT BE?
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!