What Saint Paul Wants You to Understand about Jesus and Poverty

“But just as you excel in everything—in faith and in speaking and in knowledge and with all diligence and in the love from us that is in you—so may you excel in this grace also. I am not saying this as a command, but proving the genuineness of your love by means of the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, for your sake he became poor, in order that you, by his poverty, may become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:6–9 LEB).

When Paul set out to explain to the Corinthians how they should handle difficult situations, help others, and share the good news of Jesus, he chose to center his message on grace. In making the case for living graciously, Paul pulls in the example of Jesus. He states that Jesus became poor for the sake of the world.

The first level of Jesus’ poverty came in his decision to become a human. When Jesus decided to become human he moved from being crowned in glory in heaven to being a mortal. He went from being able to move like a spirit to being stuck in flesh. But Jesus took it on gladly, for our sake. Jesus also became poor in a very ordinary way: He grew up in poor Nazareth and was a traveling preacher, who was basically homeless.

If Jesus had not chosen to become human, he would not have been able to save us. If Jesus had not become physically poor, he likely would not have been as effective as a minister. Even in his poor appearance, Jesus was an attractive teacher—a stark contrast to the rich teachers of his day (compare Isaiah 53:1).

Jesus understood that it was through enduring poverty that he was able to reach and save humanity. On his way to dying for the world—on the cross—Jesus became a poor man. Those of us with much must realize how incredibly far we actually are from the state Jesus lived in. We must also keep in mind that our poor neighbors understand many things about Jesus that we do not.

If Paul was alive today, he would probably remind us of the exact same thing he brought up to the Corinthians: be gracious, for Jesus was incredibly gracious to us. Do what you can for those in need. Be kind to others, despite whatever dispute you may have with them. Spread the good news of Jesus at all cost.

How does Paul’s perspective on Jesus, conflict, and poverty change your perspective? What are you going to do about it?

(This is part of the blog series "What Saint Paul Says about Poverty.")

John Barry
John Barry


CEO and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the General Editor of the highly acclaimed Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary. His new book is Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. It is widely endorsed by Christian leaders from around the world.