Many believers usually believe they are supposed to be wealthy because Jesus was poor that we might be rich. I believe second Corinthians 8:9 is one of the most misunderstood portions of the Bible. Did Jesus actually become poor that we might be rich?
Quick answer; Jesus wasn’t poor, he became poor. We will understand this shortly.
“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 NIV
Let us take a close look at this verse again. It doesn’t truly suggest that “Jesus was poor so that we can be rich”, it says “for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”. What does this mean?
First, we need to be clear on this, it wasn’t about financial prosperity. If it was, we would be a mockery to the rich unbelievers. Secondly, we need to pay attention to every single word in the Bible, the moment we miss a word or even punctuation, it can lead to a great misunderstanding of the Bible. See that again, “for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich”. To understand this, we need to really go back to the mission statement of Jesus.
Jesus never said “I have come that you shall have wealth”, money has never been the problem, it has never been the reason why Jesus came. He said in John 10:10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus came to give us life to its full capacity! The full capacity of this life runs into eternity, it is called “eternal life” and that is what Jesus came to give. Every single thing Jesus did on earth points back to this very simply stated but powerful statement “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” We see this same thing in John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 NIV
We see yet again why Jesus came, not to solve a money problem but to settle the issue of spiritual poverty (sin), once and for all. To this effect, we see that Jesus became sin that we might become the righteousness of God. Prior to 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul had written
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV
This is how Jesus became poor so that through his poverty we might become rich! Understand it this way; he became sin so that through his payment of the wages of sin we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I love how the Message Bible puts 2 Corinthians 8:9
“You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.” – 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 MSG
To understand this in context, Paul was encouraging his audience to give for the work of ministry following the example of Jesus who gave his all to make us who we are. It was all about what Jesus gave, he was poor because he gave his all, not because he was lacking in material substance.
The Message Bible uses the word “became rich” which shows this is already who we have become by the reason of what Jesus has done. In other words, Jesus “wasn’t poor so that we can be rich”, “he became poor so that through his poverty we might be rich”. Rich here isn’t money, it is God’s righteousness and life.
Let’s see how Jesus became poor.
“Instead, he gave up his divine privileges ; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:7-8 NLT
He became poor by giving up his divine privileges, he gave it up generously and took the form of human in a sacrificial move to salvage man from the grip of sin! It is this act of Jesus that made him the most worthy example when the discourse of giving is ongoing.
In other words, Paul wasn’t saying “you’ll be rich because Jesus was poor”, he was saying “Jesus emptied himself just to bring you to salvation”. This has nothing to do with material wealth but it has everything to do with God’s mercy, grace and righteousness. Material things aren’t the yardstick to measure our wealth in Christ.
There are believers who though already rich in God’s righteousness and the gift of life are lacking in material prosperity. Hence, Paul wrote to believers saying
“Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NLT
Material prosperity is worked for, it requires effort but our prosperity in Christ which is righteousness and the life of God isn’t earned on merit, it is a result of the finished works of Jesus on the cross. Until we separate material prosperity from the gospel, we may keep misinterpreting very important portions of the Bible.
Another Biblical term many believers misquote to mean material prosperity is the ‘blessings of Abraham’. What exactly is the blessing of Abraham? His cattle? Money? Servants? Let’s see what the Bible says
“Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.” – Galatians 3:14 NLT
The blessings of Abraham is being counted righteous by faith and not works. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Let’s read:
T”Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!” – Romans 4:3, 9-10 NLT
We have been blessed with the very same blessing, we are righteous by faith in Christ Jesus and not by our efforts or ability to keep the rules perfectly. While it is God’s desire that we prosper financially, there are laid down principles on how financial prosperity comes. It doesn’t come because we are believers, it comes when we start creating wealth by working with our hands and proffering solutions.
Back to the question, was Jesus poor so that we can be rich? He became poor so that through his poverty we might become rich. I believe you know the difference now. To put it in perspective, Jesus emptied himself and paid the price for our sins that we might become the righteousness of God in him and filled with his Spirit.