“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).
In the previous chapter, we witnessed Paul guiding the Corinthian church to restored unity and fellowship with each other and with himself as they overcame issues which had earned them his rebuke. Here we see him reminding his dear brothers and sisters that they need to take their eyes off of their own problems and look to the churches around them. We who are so blessed to have meeting places with heating and cooling, sound systems and projectors, and bathrooms and kitchens cannot imagine what these house churches experienced as many suffered persecution at the hands of neighbors, friends, and even family. Paul sets up the church in Macedonia as an example for Corinth; instead of handing down a commandment, “Give to the church in Jerusalem! After all, you have an obligation…,” he shows them model believers in the situation he wants to encourage them in.
Second Corinthians 8:2-4 states, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.” Paul does not want nor should he need to rebuke the Corinthians for not giving once more for this group of believers in serious need. They already excelled in faith, speech, knowledge, enthusiasm, and love; this gracious act of giving should only be the natural outflow of that lifestyle (verse 7).
Oh, and just in case the Corinthians were not convicted yet, Paul reminds them of one spotless example of sacrificial giving: “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” (verse 9). Yes, it was that same Jesus who said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). I think that Paul would echo here his sentiment to the Colossian church, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3). As we pursue this kind of single-minded love, we find that our riches are not found in things but in Christ and in the family of God—and just as we give to those who are in need, eventually the plenty of others will overflow to cover our own needs.
Paul closes out this chapter by commending Titus and his companions, reminding the church that they have worked hard to guard against any criticism for the way they handled Jerusalem’s gift. The point here is not to become distracted by the gift itself, but to see past it to the life Jesus is calling them to.