Though He was Rich, Yet for Your Sake He Became Poor

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)

This verse is often used to explain why as a Christian you can never or should never be poor. The argument is: If Jesus became poor so you will be rich then why and how can you, as a Christian, ever be poor? It may surprise you to learn that what the Apostle Paul was teaching was actually very different from this and, perhaps, even contrary to it. This is a classic example of how we fall into error when we pick a verse in isolation (i.e. without the context). So what’s Paul teaching us?

Paul starts in verse 1 by saying: And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. What was this grace? He elaborates from verses 2 through 5, In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

Having told the Corinthians of the grace of giving that the Macedonian churches had, he goes on to express his desire to see the Corinthians also walk in this grace. So in verses 6 and 7, he says, So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Then verse 8-9, he says, I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 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.

So here it is. Paul tells the Corinthians that the Macedonians had a grace of giving. This grace of giving was such that they gave, even beyond their ability, to help other Christians who were in need. He tells the Corinthians to walk in this grace also. Finally, he cites the ultimate example of this grace – the Lord Jesus Christ who gave up his riches for us to become rich. The lesson is, therefore, that, as Christians, we should be willing to give (become a little poorer) so that others who are poor can become a little richer through our becoming a little poorer. This is what happens when ‘he who has two coats gives to him who has none’. (Luke 3:11) Quite a far cry from how the scripture is used. Isn’t it? Pray that God will help you follow the example of Jesus in laying down your life for others.

 

Singing Congregational Songs

One of the things we love to do when we gather as the body of Christ every week is to sing. We are told from Scripture that “… when (we) come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26). We are also told to “let the word of Christ dwell in (us) richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in (our) hearts to God”. To this end, when song leaders choose songs for the congregation, they must be mindful that we sing songs with gospel focused content and that are congregation driven.

Gospel Focused Content

The songs must be true. In singing, we proclaim God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to the world. We sing about who He is and what He has done for us. The songs we sing must accurately depict the one we are singing about. This means the first question to ask about a song is not whether the song “dey be” but whether the song speaks truth. Every song teaches something. A gospel song should teach the gospel. We often think of gospel as its own genre of music that we sometimes forget that ‘gospel’ should be a description of the content of the song. And that content should be Biblically accurate else it ceases to be gospel. We should ensure that we are proclaiming the truth about God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

The songs must be clear. The message of the song should not be confusing or muddled. This is because when we are together singing as the body of Christ, our primary goal should be building each other up as we await the coming of the Lord. So the congregation should be able to understand what is being said in the song. We should ensure that we are proclaiming the truth about God(Father, Son and Spirit) in a manner that is clearly understood. In that way we will be indeed teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts.

In a multi lingual community such as ours it is also important that the songs we sing is understood by all. This means providing translations to songs in cases that they are needed. The question then should be: is what we are singing clear and understood by the congregation? When picking that dope Joyous Celebration song, we should remember to get the translation of as well and either explain it or show the [insert appropriate language] translation to the congregation. This applies as well to our local language songs as well.

Congregation driven singing
The congregation can sometimes feel like a passive member of the service when it comes to singing. Instead of us singing together, it’s feels more like the choir or music group performing for the congregation.

The congregation should be able to hear the words of the song. This is a similar to the point about the content of our songs being clear. If the song is clear then we should sing it clearly. This is especially important for congregations where there is not the luxury of projecting the words of the song. That means the congregation learn the song based on what they hear so we should make sure that they can clearly hear what is being sung by singing clearly and pronouncing our words correctly. People will be more encouraged to sing if they can hear and understand what is sung.

The congregation should be able hear themselves sing. As good as having very good sound equipment is it can become a distraction when all the congregation can hear is the sound from the speakers and they can’t even hear the person next to them singing. It is always wonderful when the song leader tells those with amplified sounds (instrumentalists and vocalists) to keep silent for a moment and calls out for the congregation to sing. It almost seems like the congregation is encouraged to sing when they can hear the people around them singing as well. The sound mix during a congregational song should reflect the intent of singing to one another. It shouldn’t be so overpowering that the congregation is quite content to watch the choir perform for them since they can’t hear their involvement in the singing.

We shouldn’t let the innovations and technology we have in the areas of sound and instrumentation overshadow the joy of the people of God lifting their voices to him in praise and adoration for the wonderful things He has done for us. All these innovations should be used to enhance and improve on how we sing to each other in praise of our King. We should also make sure that what we sing is meaningful not only to those in church but to any outsiders who might be visiting the church as we teach them the truth of our Lord through our songs.