The Great Renunciation
2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor…

Here we are reminded of the manifestation of the Divine love in Jesus Christ, and of the grand design of that manifestation.

1. Christ became poor in character. In the past eternity He dwelt in a holy universe; was circled about with holy hosts; He was Himself the light in which there was no darkness at all. But He "became poor." He condescended to dwell with sinners; to become the substitute and representative of a guilty race. "He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh." Here is the heart of the text. "He was made sin for us who knew no sin." We all heard a few years ago of the island in the South Seas called Leper Island; all who became infected with the terrible disease in any of the adjoining islands were banished to Leper Island, and there ultimately they miserably perished. And then we were told of a priest who out of pure pity went to live in the plague spot. He was not a leper, but he cut himself off from civilisation, and was willing to share the lot of the sufferers so that he might minister to them, living with them, being buried with them. The conduct of that missionary was a reflection of the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Catholic missionary consenting to live with the leprous community could not communicate his health to them — that was utterly beyond his design and power; the fact is the priest became infected with the leprosy himself and died of it. But Christ came to heal us of our direful malady, to make us share His strong and beautiful life, to touch our lips with cleansing, to banish our corruptions, to send heavenly health through all our veins, to give to our whole being the vitality and bloom of righteousness. What is more clear than the fact that Christ has enriched the race with a new, a higher, a more powerful righteousness? When the incarnation came the world was poor enough in character. The nations had wasted their substance in riotous living, and Jew and Greek were alike hopeless and corrupt. But let us not lose ourselves in generalities. "For your sakes." The apostle individualises. Let us personally claim that grace, and although we are poor and blind and naked and defiled, He shall cleanse us from every spot, and make our raiment to be of gold and fine needlework.

2. Christ became poor in dominion. In the eternity of the past Christ sat on the throne. He was the Creator, Ruler, Heir of all things. But for "our sakes He became poor." The fact of His poverty is seen in that it was possible for Him to be tempted. He took upon Himself the form of a slave and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. "That we might become rich." That, slaves as we were, the lost kingship might be restored to us. Christ restores us to self-government. This crown of self-government has fallen from our head. We are tyrannised over by vile passions — intemperance, anger, pride, avarice — all these vices triumph over us, and make a show of us openly. Christ once more puts the fallen crown upon our head. He restores in us the government of God. Christ gives to us self-mastery — first and grandest of coronations. Christ restores to us the government of nature. In the beginning man was the vicegerent of God. But that dominion has been broken, and instead of man ruling nature, nature has ruled man, affrighted him, crushed him. But as man recovers self-rule he mysteriously acquires power over all things. Do we not see this in the progress of our Christian civilisation? As men master themselves their relation to nature is changed, they lift themselves out of the stream of physical forces, and attain a wider freedom. Science is only possible through character, and as Christ makes us free from the power of evil we lay our hand on the sea, direct the lightning, and inherit the riches of the world. Christ restores us to an abiding government in the kingdom of the future. We read much in the New Testament about the saints reigning as kings. Christ is to be King in the world of the future, and all who are loyal to Him shall share in the undisputed and everlasting sovereignty.

3. Christ became poor in blessedness. Revelation brings the Deity before us as infinitely blissful. In God is the unutterable bliss springing from perfect knowledge, absolute will, ineffable love, everlasting righteousness. Here, once more, for "our sakes He became poor." And how profoundly poor! He became poor "that we might become rich." What an extraordinary gladness throbbed in the apostles — everywhere in the New Testament we feel the pulsations of a mighty joy! And so it is still with all those whose lives are hid with Christ in God. In the midst of a world of sorrow and death He brings to us the blessedness of celestial worlds. A little while ago I read of a gentleman in the heart of a great city listening to a telephone, when he was surprised to hear the rich music of forest birds. It seemed that the wire passed through the country, and so some way caught the music of the far-away woods and transmitted it to the heart of the black toiling city. Christ has restored the missing chords between heaven and earth, and now in a world of care and conflict, of suffering and tears, we are delighted to catch the echoes of far-off music, to taste the joy unspeakable and full of glory which belongs to the perfect universe. Many of us are poor enough in joy, but it is not our own fault. If we would only claim more of that glorious grace which Christ gives, our peace should flow as a river, our hearts be as a watered garden whose waters fail not.

4. Christ became poor in life. He was rich in life. "He only hath immortality." But for "our sakes He became poor." He shared our mortality. The Rose of Sharon faded as other roses do; the Lily of the Valley withered as lilies nipped by the frost. He did not even attain the poor threescore years and ten. The text assumes the poverty of humanity. Yes, we are poor, paupers indeed. There is a deep destitution under all our displays of knowledge, power, happiness, character. The enrichment of humanity is through the humiliation of Christ. In Him the riches of eternity are poured into the bankrupt life of man. There is no other way to true riches but through Him.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

WEB: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.

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