“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 Corinthians 8:9)
This verse from 2 Corinthians 8:9 has been on my mind the entire month of December. It is the essence of the mystery and amazement of Christmas. And even though I kept meditating on it, I couldn’t get over how amazing this miracle of Christmas is to me.
If I were a ruler, and if I were to send my son as an ambassador to another country so that those foreigners may know me, then of course I would make my son’s arrival a publicized, glamorous event. He would meet with the leaders of that country and do some schmoozing. And by my son’s elegant appearance, they would know to respect me as the ruler of this country.
But Jesus was born poor and in the most humble fashion. That’s not what I expected a king to be like.
And yet He exactly represented who our God is. Because by stripping Himself of the heavenly riches and becoming poor, he showed us that God is a God who by His nature is one who gives and gives. He is one who sacrifices for our sake even when his suffering is beyond what we can imagine. And this is a God who is entirely for us.
This kind of kindness and grace is not something we can understand. Kindness is rare these days in our every day lives. And at Christmas, even as we practice the giving of gifts, we are okay to give gift because we would expect to get something in return.
This December I have participated in a couple of White Elephant gift exchanges. And what I saw was not really a scene of people giving gifts. It was war. It was fighting to get what I want. It was scheming to get what I want in exchange. It was some doing a lot of sulking that I didn’t end up with something I like that I could bring home. It was some expressing half-guilty happiness to be able to get what I do not deserve. It was greed and lust and selfishness and cunning and negotiations all wrapped over mere $20 gifts. What’s sick is I was also a part of this, and I liked playing this game as well.
But the way God gives is to expect nothing in return. He gives everything away, including Christ’s life by His death on the cross. And 2 Corinthians 8:9 says He did this so that we “might become rich.”
This we-might-become-rich part blows me away. Obviously this is not taking about monetary wealth. What kind of richness is this talking about?
Many people interpret this part in different ways, but when I meditated over this in the past month, I could only come up with two qualities of what being “rich” can mean: (a) having no wants and needs; (b) not having to acquire anymore.
Many people are monetarily wealthy but are still unsatisfied. But if we could truly see Jesus’ poverty as a sign of how God gives and gives to us, we would realize that all our wants and needs are satisfied in God.
Moreover, all of us have the unrelenting desire to possess more and more. We see something and we want it, immediately, by any means necessarily. But to be truly rich is to understand that we to be cured of the need to keep acquiring. After all, if a life of poverty is enough for Jesus, why can’t we also be content with what we already have?
Of course all this is easier said than done. In fact, I take that back — it is not easy to say it either. If, with the Spirit’s help, that we can even just believe this in our hearts, then we would truly appreciate the Christmas miracle. I pray that the Spirit of God would illuminate us to see the amazing mystery of Christ’s poverty this Christmas.
Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace by Miroslav Volf