When Jesus Became Poor

And Emptied Himself

Part One

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. [2 Cor. 8:9]

The verse above has been 'put on the rack' and tortured beyond recognition by the Health and Wealth Marketeers. They have place a meaning upon it that Paul never intended. They didn't stop there, either. They attacked its closely related passage, found in Phil. 2:5-8, and tortured it as well. This study will endeavor to rescue both of these passage, and its OT parallel as well, i.e., Isa. 52:14. These false teacher torture and pervert the true beauty expressed in these passages.

Many of the Health and Wealth teachers use this verse to teach that Jesus became materially poor so that we might become wealthy. Joseph Prince stated, “On the cross, Jesus bore the curse of poverty!” fn1

Many may see poverty as a curse, and in a real sense, it is. Jesus told us there will always be poor in the earth, “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good.” [Mark 14:7] However, nowhere does the Bible say Jesus died on the cross to remove the curse of poverty. He died on the cross as an atonement for our sins. He did not die to enhance our station or position in this world, whether high or low. The Scripture does say He became a curse for us by hanging on a tree [Gal. 3:13]. The curse He redeemed us from was the curse of the law [Gal. 3:10]. The curse of the law is death.

As we stated at the beginning, the parallel passage to the quoted above, is Phil. 2:5-8.

This passage in Philippians speaks of how Christ, “Emptied Himself,” which is comparable to the phrase above, “he became poor.” The issue Paul is dealing with in Philippians, is the lack of harmony, or unity. It seems many of the believers were working their own agendas. Paul encouraged them to be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” He instructs them that nothing should be done, “from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

He continues his encouragement to unity,

  • vs. 4 - Don’t get so wrapped up in your own problems, that you cannot see those of others.
  • vs. 5 - Let this attitude be in you, which was in also in Christ.

What attitude was in Christ, that should also be in us? Christ,

[6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
vs. 6 - “form of God” Form, morphe - g3444. μορφή morphē; “the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; external appearance.”

“The true meaning of morphe in the expression ‘form of God’ is confirmed by its recurrence in the corresponding phrase, ‘form of a servant.’ It is universally admitted that the two phrases are directly antithetical, and that, ‘form’ must therefore have the same sense in both.” [Vines]

Although he existed in the visible form of God, He did not count His equality with God a thing to grasped and retained at all costs. Form relates directly to His external appearance. This is seen in the phrase of being in the form of a servant.

7 But He emptied Himself, taking hold of the form of a bond slave, being born in the similitude of men.

Not only did He take hold of the form of a servant, He was born in the similitude, or likeness of men. His external appearance was that of being a man, a man who was a servant, a slave.

“emptied” Himself - kenos kenoo (κενόω, 2758), “to empty,” is so translated in Phil. 2:7, RV, for KJV, “made... of no reputation.”

The clauses which follow the verb are exegetical of its meaning, especially the phrases “the form of a servant,” and “the likeness of men.” Christ did not “empty” Himself of Godhood. He did not cease to be what He essentially and eternally was. The KJV, while not an exact translation, goes far to express the act of the Lord. [Vines]

Jesus did not lay His divinity aside. He set His natural Glory of being God aside, and took up the outer appearance of a slave. It is impossible for God to stop being God [2 Tim. 2:13].

Remember what we said about context in the very beginning? The context surrounding the phrase, “Emptied Himself,” gives us its meaning.

A Short Parable

A king desired to know what it was like to live as a commoner within his kingdom. He felt the only way to do this was for him to experience it, for himself.

So he made arrangements for the administration of his kingdom to continue uninterrupted. He then disrobed himself of his kingly glory and majesty, and donned the clothes of a pauper. He then lived in his own kingdom, unrecognized, as a common pauper.

He emptied himself of his kingly glory, and “took up the form” of a commoner.

The lesson of the parable: While he lived in the guise of a commoner, he never stopped being king. He never stopped being who he was, though no one recognized his true self by his outer appearance. No matter what menial jobs he had to perform to earn a living, he was always king. He could have stopped living as a commoner any time he wanted and reclaim his proper glory.

Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, never stopped being who He was, i.e., God. He only hid His divine nature under the guise of a servant. When he grew hungry, tired, and needed to rest, He was still who He was, God in the form of a man, living as a man. God Almighty lived incognito as a bond-servant. His outward form changed, but His inward nature and being did not.

He did, however, give His disciples a glimpse of the pre-incarnate glory He laid aside, which He possessed with the Father. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus pulled back the veil of his form as a servant to reveal His true nature and glory. [Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2]

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Being “found in human form,” He humbled Himself to the point of death. Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him with the glory He had with Him, before the world existed.

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. [Jn. 17:5]

This glory, the Father would give Him when He raised Him from the dead.

The experiencing of death was part of His being in the likeness of men, as well as being necessary for the atonement.

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. [Heb. 2:14-15]

He submitted Himself to death, but not just any death. He was obedient even to the death of the cross.