2 Corinthians 8:7-9 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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 by his poverty might become rich.
The apostle Paul probably wrote this letter from Macedonia during his preparations to travel to Jerusalem. There was a famine in Judea at the time and he wanted to encourage the Christians in Corinth to take up a relief offering. It was important to Paul that the Corinthians join in this special offering. Corinth and the rest of Greece was wealthy when compared to Macedonia. He pointed out the extreme poverty of the Macedonian Christians and how they had begged him for the privilege of giving to this relief fund. Now, he wanted the church in Corinth to prosper because of their willingness to share with others. He commended them for excelling in all things and encouraged them to excel in giving.
Paul reminded the Corinthians of the grace of our Lord Jesus. By this grace all people everywhere are blessed. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden they became worthy of eternal punishment and separation from God. All of us inherited that punishment as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. That being the case, we have to wonder how can God continue to pour out blessings on sinners who deserve only death and hell? The answer is that God distributes grace to everyone on earth. All people are blessed by this grace. It is common to all people and not restricted to believers. God gives uncounted blessings, other than salvation by grace. But Paul especially wanted the Corinthians to see the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that led to their salvation. Let’s look at…
The grace of Christ. Turn with me to the gospel of John 1:14-18. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
We have all received grace upon grace; God’s gifts on top of God’s gifts through the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ. The glory of Christ is seen as the glory of the only son from the Father. Jesus was the Word that became flesh and lived among us pouring out God’s love and God’s truth. It is very hard to imagine what this is all about. For the eternal son of God to come to earth and be born the son of a young woman in a stable is amazing to think about. This baby, born to Mary, had existed eternally as part of the triune Godhead. He was there as God when there was nothing else so far as we know. This child created the universe as we know it today and has always enjoyed the fellowship of the Father and the Holy Spirit.
He was born the son of a carpenter and grew up in the tiny village of Nazareth. Before that…
He was rich beyond understanding. Turn with me to Colossians 1:15-20. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
This Jesus was the exact representation of the Father. He was the glory of God forever and forever before anything existed that we are familiar with. Everything depends on him! All the angels and everything we see was created through him and for him. All the fullness of God was happy to dwell in him. Repeatedly we are told that Jesus not only created all things but also that he maintains all things by the word of his power. Today Jesus lives as the mediator between God and man having paid the full price of our sin, having conquered death and hell, and then sat down at the right hand of the Father in heaven. With all of that going for him — being preeminent in everything —…
Jesus willingly became poor. Turn with me to Philippians 2:5-8. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Though he was in the form of God he did not consider refusing the mission agreed upon before the creation. The whole process of becoming a substitute sacrifice for Adam and Eve and all their descendents, who would believe, was planned out before the creation of the world. Jesus, along with the rest of the Godhead, is not just the creator of all things but is the owner of all things.
Without him nothing was made. Nothing existed apart from Jesus who became the Christ. Everything belongs to him and always has. I find it very hard to grasp the reality that my creator took my place and paid the price that I could not pay. Jesus willingly became poor and emptied himself of all that he possessed…
In order for his people to be rich. This may seem a strange idea but let’s see what the Bible says. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 8:12-15. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”
God’s purpose in giving people financial resources is to advance the kingdom. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “your abundance at the present time should supply their need,…” This has been God’s plan throughout history. Let me tell you about a couple of people that have been used mightily of God.
One of those people is, RG LeTourneau he is perhaps the most inspiring Christian inventor, businessman and entrepreneur the world has ever seen. A sixth grade dropout, he went on to become the leading earth moving machinery manufacturer of his day with plants on 4 continents, more than 300 patents to his name and major contributions to road construction and heavy equipment that forever changed the world. Most importantly, his contribution to the advancement of the Gospel ranks him among the greatest of Christian Businessmen of all time. LeTourneau exemplified what a Christian businessman should be.
All of this success grew out of a time of serious poverty and debt! After serving in World War I, LeTourneau went into business and struggled for several years. He operated an automobile dealership and a garage until he went under financially. In the course of his mechanical work he built some earth moving equipment and after using it himself he began to sell his equipment to other people. As a Christian he knew that he needed to give to his church as well as to missions. He wanted to be totally committed to Christ and thought that meant he would have to be a missionary or a pastor. It took a serious time of prayer and counseling to see that God wanted him as a successful businessman. He refused to work on Sunday even though he was losing money and the bank was threatening to close him down. After some persuasion, he convinced the bank to let him operate by Christian principles. As God blessed his business he and his wife made a very important decision. He had always practiced tithing as well as giving above and beyond the tithe to missions. As they began to prosper he made the decision to turn the formula around and give God 90% and keeping for himself 10%. He often said, “It’s not how much of my money I give to God, but how much of God’s money I keep for myself.” With that money they established the LeTourneau Foundation to manage the administration of donations. By 1959, after giving to Christian ministry more than $10 million, the LeTourneau Foundation was still worth some $40 million. Today, that foundation continues to support Christian ministry and educational facilities around the world.
To meet the needs of others. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 9:10-15. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
We need to remember that financial success has not been given to us for the purpose of expanding our lifestyle. Paul reminded the Corinthians that God supplies all our needs and then supplies even more with a particular purpose in mind.
Let me pause to say that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Acquiring money is not evil, loving money is the problem. It’s very easy to go from acquiring money to loving money. What I’m sharing with you is not how to be rich but what to do with the resources we receive. Many Christian workers are going to have to answer to God for keeping back for themselves financial resources that could have changed other people in the world.
We need to remember that it is God who supplies the ability to earn. He will supply our resources and multiply them. Not just add but multiply. God does that not so we can be rich as a goal but so that we can be generous in every way. Don’t make the mistake of sitting on resources, or wasting them, when God has given those resources to meet the needs of others. The grace of God on us is God’s way of meeting the financial needs of ministry here. and around the world. When we are faithful with what God has given us he will always be faithful in giving to us to meet the needs of others. And when we have properly used those financial resources the people who are helped by them are going to glorify God and pray for us. Yes, we will be used by God in a special way. Those who receive will be grateful to us…
And give glory to God. Turn with me to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14-16. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Jesus does not say that we should be the light of the world. He says that we are the light of the world! We have a responsibility to take the light that God has given us and drive away the darkness of the world. Light is not given to be hidden. Financial resources are not given to be taken out of circulation either. In fact, the world we live in is spiritually “darkness” and we have the responsibility of bringing light — God’s light — into this world. One thing we are assured of is that the light will soon cover the whole world. We are to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. We do this by allowing our resources to be used for God’s glory and the good of many people.
Everything that we have belongs to God. It’s easy for us to say that we have accumulated material things and financial blessings by our hard work. No doubt, there is a great deal of truth in that. However it is the grace of God that enables us to do everything we do. Jesus set the example for us by giving up the glory of heaven to live in the gloom of earth. He came to give us life abundantly. Jesus willingly became poor. As a result he is able to make all of us as rich as need be to meet the needs of those around us. And most importantly to allow the light of the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ to shine in the darkness of this world. Come to the light! And then become a light bearer to carry the gospel to all people.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.