[6] Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. [7] 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. [10] And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. [11] So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

2 Corinthians 8:6-11

I was recently standing in a supermarket next to a mum with a child that was screaming repeatedly “I want.” The mother took the toy from the shelf and gave it the child. For a moment I did wonder what this would lead to in twenty years time. That insatiable appetite to want more, to feel that you are missing out if you have not got something someone else has.

As Christians we face all sorts of enemies that bombard our hearts and minds like; anger, pride, lust, bitterness or envy. You can probably add some more. Few are as powerful and relentless as greed. That’s the one good thing about greed you don’t need to define it! We all know what it is and can see it and feel it all around us.

So to our passage. It’s not certain that greed was the primary reason the Corinthians had stopped short of completing their contribution to the poverty-stricken Church in Jerusalem, but most commentators say it must have played a part. Some have argued that Paul’s opponents in Corinth were responsible, having suggested that the apostle was deceiving the Corinthians by planning to keep the money (or a portion of it) for himself.

Anyway, Paul’s appeal in vs 6-11 is simple, finish what you started. Excel as much in generous giving as you do in other spiritual areas, let everyone know of the sincerity and earnestness of your love for those in need. As you have been blessed now overflow in generosity to those in need.

So how do we deal with greed? Is there a way of subduing this very strong and harmful emotion. It may seem an unlikely verse but Paul does focus in on verse 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.

So in the context of greed let’s ask some questions:

In what way was Christ “rich?” There is the incalculable “wealth” of his eternal glory, He is altogether other. Isaiah did his best to convey the magnitude of this glory by providing this description of his experience:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke”

Isaiah 6:1-4

This is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke to his Father of “the glory that I had with you before the World existed” (John 17:5). Paul described it as being “in the form of God” and experiencing eternal “equality with God” (Philippians 2:6).

Yet it was more than splendour, more than radiant beauty, more than the unending adoration of angelic hosts, it was joy! The “riches” of Christ that he so lovingly forsook were, the mutual and immeasurable delight of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father and the Spirit in the Father and the Father in the Spirit and the Son in the Spirit and the Spirit in the Son. Each beholding the beauty of the other. Each exulting in the excellence of the other. Their eternal and energetic love for one another is beyond our capacity to grasp.

So, how did Christ become “poor”? Perhaps we should again let Isaiah make the point.

[2] For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. [3] He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:2-3

Wait! Surely this cannot be right. Is Paul saying , that the one at whom the seraphim dared not look (Isaiah 6:2) whose glory filled the earth (Isaiah 6:3), is also the one who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” a man “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4)?

Is Paul saying that the one who sat enthroned in power and glory (Isaiah 6:1-2) was somehow “wounded for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). How can it be that “the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5) “was oppressed” and “afflicted” like “a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent” (Isaiah 53:7)?

What we see is both the breath-taking height of his riches and the heart-breaking depth of his poverty. What words are there to explain such “grace?” He joyfully surrendered all the rights that came with the honour of divine majesty and assumed all the frailty of the human condition, and this . . . “for your sake,” said Paul to the Corinthians. Yes, and for our sake as well, that you and I “by his poverty might become rich” (vs 9).

“ Rich?” In what way have we become wealthy through his poverty?

This is not the preaching of the prosperity gospel, where we get material gain by believing in Christ. Our riches and wealth are the sort that cannot be earned by effort or secured at a sale they are the gift of sovereign grace.

Where does one start? Election before the foundation of the world? Yes! Forgiveness of sins? Yes! Adoption into the family of God? Yes! Justification by faith alone? Yes! Union with Christ? Yes! The permanent indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit? Yes! Did not Paul assure the Ephesians that God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places?” (Ephesians 1:4) Yes!

And above all else, the richest and most precious blessing of all . . . is God himself! He is our inestimable treasure. Beholding his beauty is our inheritance. Enjoying his excellency is our wealth.

But why does Paul speak in this way? For what purpose? To stir up lethargic and dull folk to give generously?

R G V Tasker in his Tyndale commentary on 2 Corinthians says:

“If this love of Christ, so magnanimous in its motive and so self-sacrificing in its execution, is an active force in the believer’s heart, how unnecessary, the apostle implies, any command to practice giving ought to be. What, without that love, might seem a cold moral duty has been transformed by it into a joyous privilege”

Greed is not good. Greed does not work. It cripples and paralyses and anaesthetises our hearts to the needs of others. Worse yet, it ignores the generous mercy and grace of Christ and the sacrifice he made so that we, through his poverty, might become truly rich.