Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Health & Wealth or the Gospel of Christ

“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 by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)

Here is a beautiful passage speaking the truth of the gospel. I bring this passage up because one day I was listening to a preacher (someone asked me to listen to him) who used this verse to speak of health and wealth. He was saying that God doesn’t want us to be poor but rather to have plenty monetarily. Then to my horror he quoted 2 Corinthians 8:9 as his proof text. I was so appalled that this wonderful passage about the gospel was used so badly out of context.

A few verses earlier Paul writes, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia” (1). But then Paul writes, “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2). Paul makes it clear that the church of Macedonia gave out of their extreme poverty. This was not a church with great wealth but rather great generosity and joy. They gave out of what they needed rather than their abundance. “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord” (3).

I am by no means a bible scholar but this passage is clearly speaking here of the monetary poverty of the church. In verse eight Paul begins talking not about money but love: “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine” (8). The churches of Macedonia did not have an abundance of wealth but they had love and joy that came from knowing Christ. Love translated into monetary giving to the saints. Earlier in the text the churches of Macedonia are begging Paul to let them give more (4). How could that be if they were poor? They were trusting in the promises of God. They “gave themselves first to the Lord” (5). It wasn’t a matter of wealth but a matter of knowing the love of Christ in the gospel. The churches were just showing genuine love to others in the body of Christ.

As for verse nine it is clear Paul is not promoting monetary wealth for those who love Christ. This passage speaks of Christ (fully God) humbly leaving the glories of heaven to take the lowly form of a servant (fully man). He was rich but for our sake he became poor so we might become rich. Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Clearly this is where Jesus became poor. But then Paul writes, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). If we will humble ourselves, by God’s grace, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord and repent of our sins trusting in his finished work on the cross then we gain the riches of Christ.

We can only gain those riches because Christ became poor. We are not promised riches with money but a treasure greater than money, Christ. Money will burn but Christ lives eternally. This is why Paul earlier in 2 Corinthians talks about Christians saying, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true, as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (6:8-10). We are making many rich because we proclaim the gospel of Christ and God gives people new hearts to worship and adore the name of Jesus. It’s not about money, it’s about Christ!

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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