2 Corinthians 8:9 – 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.
This is a Christmas text.
Jesus was poor. He was born into a poor family, in poor circumstances and never climbed out of that poverty all His life. But the phrase “He became poor” is not talking about economic poverty. It simply means “He became a real human being …”. It is talking about Jesus becoming human. In the incarnation the eternal Son of God, who made the world and holds the world together, who deserved and received the worship of all the hosts of heaven comes to earth as a human being – is becoming poor.
The giving of gifts at Christmas time is said to go all the way back to the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought to Jesus by the wise men. I hope not. I hope the giving of gifts at Christmas time is not the mere imitating of very expensive, very affordable gifts brought by very rich people to Jesus. And the reason I hope that is because the gifts of Christmas are not meant to take our thoughts to the wise men. They are meant to take our thoughts back further than that. Gifts at Christmas time go to the manger. Gifts at Christmas time are not about what we give to Jesus. Gifts at Christmas time are about what Jesus gave to us.
He “made Himself poor”. Here is how we celebrate Christmas all year long. When we see in our mind’s eye this Christmas, baby Jesus in the manger; when we see creches and concerts and Christmas cards and movies, we need to remember this – He made Himself poor so you could be rich through His poverty. And what Paul is saying in II Corinthians 8 is that this truth should cause you to be generous to the needy, especially those of the household of faith. That baby is the Creator of the universe and He is in that manger to make you rich. And if you are a real follower of Jesus Christ that will be enough to make you generous.
In verse 8 of this chapter Paul says “I am not commanding you”. I am not commanding you – Why not? Why not command the Corinthians to be generous to the Jerusalem church? He doesn’t need to. Jesus became poor for you – enough said. That fact alone will move the real Christian heart to do what it should.
The world will know that we are Jesus’ disciples because we love one another. Jesus said that on the night He was handed over to be crucified. He said “I am going to win you to myself and when I do you are going to love me and you will love all other believers in Me and that love will show in compassion and care and a willingness to sacrifice for one another”. So, the Corinthians have neglected to come through with their promised gift. What to do? Remind them of what Jesus did for them. This is simple basic Christianity. This is not rocket science. This is Christianity 101.
Really, truly celebrating Christmas by giving gifts is just a matter of being a believer in Christ and being a believer in Christ means being generous. Generosity is not a gift we offer God. It is the response of the heart that has come to realize what has happened in bringing him to faith. It is the inevitable response of the heart.
“…Christian liberality springs from a heart conscious of the infinite generosity of God in giving His Son to redeem mankind” [R.V.G. Tasker]
The motivation here in the context of this passage of Scripture is not the plight of the Jerusalem Christians. A true believer in Jesus Christ does not need to see the bloated bellies and hollow faces of the starving masses of other parts of the world. All he needs to see is the eternal Son of God lying in a manger on a mission to die for sinners. Why is it that so many believers need to be coaxed and pushed and encouraged and embarrassed, in order to give to the needy, especially the needy who are brothers and sisters?
A proper appreciation of Jesus’ work for me will make me generous. Most believers in the world do not have a lot of money. Most believers in the world live in poverty beyond what most western Christians can imagine. And the few Christians whom I have met in non-western parts of the world, are very generous – just like the Macedonian believers of Paul’s day were.
II Corinthians 8:2 – 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
Generosity has nothing to do with how much money you have. It has to do with grace.
“…the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” This is a striking thought. It is not commandments that will motivate us to celebrate Christmas all year long by showing liberality. It is not guilt. It is certainly not prosperity. Not at all. It is grace.
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia (II Corinthians 8:1)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,  waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13)
Have you been a recipient of the grace of God? Have you really come to grips with the fact that salvation is by grace alone? Have you really known that all your righteousness is filthy rags? Have you really seen that salvation is not by works – because you had no works to offer? How often do even Christian people talk like their works of charity are a badge of honour that shows just how wonderful they are? How often do believers point to themselves as proof that they are better than those outside of the fold? How often do we treat the lost with disdain because deep down we really believe that we were never that bad?
As long as we allow such thoughts to take root in our hearts and minds we will never celebrate Christmas the way it was meant to be celebrated. We will never respond to free undeserved, unsolicited, unwanted, mercy that was lavished upon us – in the way that we should. If we are going to celebrate Christmas the way we should we need to get into our Bibles and on our knees and read of the grace of God in Christ and we need to earnestly plead with God that He will bring us to know His grace more and more. If we are going to prove out our faith and celebrate Christmas by having a generous spirit we must, we must, we must, study and pray in, and be broken by, the incomprehensible grace of God.
What a thing is being done as the eternal Son of God comes to be born as He was. It is gorious beyong words. It is life changing for all who receive it. It makes us givers, in all kinds of ways. We can never pay God back. It would be idolatrous to try. But we can show the effects of grace, by celebrating Christmas all year long.