Poverty and Riches - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Poverty and Riches


"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."

Poverty and Riches

Do you recognise a bargain when you see one? When the sales are on can you tell the difference between what would be excellent purchase and what will turn out to be a waste of money?

I guess we all of us like to get value for value and we don't like paying over the odds, do we? How frustrating to pay the full price for something one week and then to see the same item 50% off the next!

I wonder how we would get on if we decided to apply some of the same criteria to what God does. I wonder whether we would reckon that God's value system is similar to ours. Perhaps we've never even bothered to think through some of the most basic things the Bible tells us about God and his love.

This morning I want us to think about this particular Bible text and try to understand what it has to say to us both about God and us. This is the text:

2Cor.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."

If we were to look at the wider context in which this particular verse is found we might be somewhat surprised to find that the context isn't really the Christmas story at all but rather it is about collections and offerings – the apostle Paul wrote it to encourage the Christians to whom he was writing to be generous in their giving to others. We don't really need to ask why because it is obvious – Paul sees that generosity is bound up with God and that God was oh so generous when it came to sending Jesus Christ into the world.

In order to understand this phenomenal generoisty of God we need to consider carefully what the words of our text signify and what it all means.

We'll proceed by thinking first about the nature of our poverty.

Our Poverty
When the Bible speaks about our poverty in this general manner what it has in view is not economic or material poverty but spiritual poverty. We're all used to being bombarded with images of people who are poor in terms of this world's riches or poor in terms of health. Those photos are carefully chosen if not fabricated to tug at our heartstrings as a way of opening our cheque books. We see pictures of the hungry, the homeless, the depressed and the hopeless. What we never see, because it is invisible to the human eye, is the spiritual poverty of the natural man.

A man may have everything that the world has to offer but if he is spiritually bankrupt he loses his soul and indeed he can give nothing in exchange for it. And the Bible's diagnosis is that every man and every woman, every boy and every girl who is not united by a vital living faith to Jesus Christ is just such a spiritual pauper.

The more we search the Scriptures the more descriptions we find as to just what that poverty is really like. Here are just a selection of many.

Eph.2:12 "remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

Paul wrote this to a group of people and reminded them of what had been their true state before they ever became Christians.

Hope is so vital to us isn't it? When people can't see any worthwhile future stretching out ahead of them how desperate their situation is, some will give in to their despair and commit suicide while others will press on but with no expectation of anything good. Of course some others will press on cheerfully and optimistically believing that somehow things will improve and turn out alright in the end even though they have no solid reason for such a confidence. They are all though "without hope" for Bible hope is not to be equated with optimistic wishful thinking but rather well-grounded confidence about events yet to come. The Christian can have this "hope" because God has made us many wonderfully generous promises, promises that depend upon him far more than upon us.

To be without God in this world is a dreadful state to be in though so many are so used to it that they consider their predicament to be normal and hence fine. But to be without God in this world means not to enjoy a close relationship with him here and now and if nothing changes never ever in all of eternity to enjoy a right relationship with him.

Folk will frequently try to shrug this off by treating it all lightly or simply dismissing it. They laugh at the idea of God as though having him for a friend is somehow negative and life-restricting when it is Jesus who came so that we might have life and life in all its fulness.

Mt.15:16 "And he said, "Are you also still without understanding?"

Another aspect of the natural man's spiritual poverty is that, when it comes to spiritual matters, he doesn't know what he is talking about and speaks in ignorance. Of course this doesn't mean that men and women know nothing at all but that they lack understanding of spiritual matters and realities. Many make great boasts but don't realise that such boasting is utterly futile:

Jer.9:24 "but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

Lk.6:49 "But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great."

And if your understanding is at fault how on earth will he be able to safely construct his life in this world and in preparation for the next? Jesus' words are readily available to anyone who wants to read them in this country but how many do? Do you?

2Tim.3:2-3 "For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,"

And lack of understanding, ignorance leads directly to wrong and inapproriate behaviour and patterns of living. In our own day self-control is required in a number of politically correct contexts and woe betide if you offend there! But self-control is likely to be trumped by calls for personal freedom of expression in our rights culture.

Rom.1:20 "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."

But deep down men and women know that they are not as they should be. They are aware despite all their bluster that they're not as nice as they could be, should be or even as they might want to be. And deep down the conscience still speaks though its voice is dulled and stifled as men and women desperately try to deny the existence of the One to whom they know they must give an account. Some might joke that they'd like to meet God so that they could give him a piece of their mind but were they actually to be met by him they would have nothing to say – it would be only too evident that they were without excuse.

Mt.9:36 "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

And so denying who they really are, what they are really here for, men and women turn here and there ready to listen to a voice here an idea there. Some have looked to politicians in the past as the ones who could solve the problems – do you know anyone who still thinks like that? Others have argued for more and more education and that would solve our problems and we have more and more of our young people going to university and coming out as graduates but have our problems been solved? Others look to celebrity culture – being famous has become important but it no longer matters why? They turn here and there, everywhere like men with no leader, no role model, like sheep without a shepherd.

Mt.22:12 "And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless."

And inevitably any efforts that might be made to relate to the divine emerge as the fruit of man's fertile brain – nerver mind what God thinks, he will be happy – he must be happy – with whatever we chose to offer him. So no "wedding garment" is worn – men imagine they can please him by their own efforts!

What a catastrophic list describing certain aspects of our spiritual poverty!

Such poverty can only be relieved by decisive and costly action taken on our behalf by God himself – our poverty is so great we simply can't resolve it on our own.

The extent of our poverty is further underlined when we think about the price that had to be met to deliver us from our parlous state. Jesus had to leave heaven and come to earth and eventually to die in order that our poverty might be transformed into his richness!

God is no fool and it is impossible to imagine why he would want to pay "over the odds". How foolish for his Son to come to earth and die if the same result could have been achieved in a less costly manner – and I repeat God is no fool and knows all things. He knew there was no other way and was prepared in his wonderful love to meet the cost.

Our Riches
In the formidable and extravagant generosity of God not only was our poverty eradicated but it was totally transformed into glorious and wonderful riches. By Christ becoming poor he made those of us who put their trust in him rich.

It is now time to take a look at what is involved in this spiritual richness.

  • Nature of these riches:

Lk.16:11 "If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?"
Lk.12:21 "So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

  • For whom:

Rom.10:12 "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

  • How these riches are to be measured:

Eph.3:16 "that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
Phil.4:19 "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

  • Specific riches:

Rom.2:4 "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?"
Rom.9:23 "in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory"
Rom.11:33 "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!"
Eph.1:7 "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,"
Eph.2:4 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,"
Eph.2:7 "so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
Tit.3:6 "(the Holy Spirit,) whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour,"

  • Kingdom riches:

Eph.1:18 "having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,"
Jas 2:5 "Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?"
2Pet.1:11 "For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  • Christ

Eph.3:8 "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,"
Col.1:27 "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Col.2:2 "that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,"

Has Christ made you rich? Or are you still in your own poverty? Come to Jesus Christ and live!

To God be the glory.


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