Everyone knows the classic rags to riches story. We love hearing stories of people growing up in poverty and making it to the big time. VH1 made a killing off assembling a whole show with shots of big houses, fancy cars and lavish furniture.
Yet, there’s something somewhat unsatisfying when you see the show and hear these incredible stories. Former drug addicts turned superstar; former slum-dweller turned movie star. While we can rejoice in their alleviation of suffering, have they really made it? I mean, is the gargantuan house with eight cars out front really the chief end of man?
Before VH1 made their show, there was a story very similar some 4,000 years ago.
Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel, was sold into slavery by his brothers because they were jealous of him. Their father loved him more than all the others and made him “a robe of many colors” (Genesis 37). So, they decided to cover their daddy issues by getting rid of their brother.
But God had a bigger plan.
Joseph went from slave to prisoner, and it looked like things were never going to get better. But, there was a constant refrain throughout this narrative. “The Lord was with Joseph, and he found favor in their eyes and had success in all he did.”
Soon enough, after interpreting a few dreams, Joseph had gone from slave to prince with the help of his God who delivered him and blessed him. But, he didn’t use his blessing to simply sit on the throne in Pharaoh’s house or mass much wealth. He used it to help the people by saving them from a devastating famine, and to make much of God by showing all the people God’s wisdom, power and provision.
This is one of the greatest rags to riches story ever told. And there’s only one greater.
“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Philippians 2:6-8]
In order to go from rags to riches, Jesus first had to go from riches to rags. He gladly gave up the riches of heaven, “not count[ing] equality with God a thing to be grasped” in order to receive the rags of his earthly body. He humbled himself for 33 years on earth, until he was nailed to the cross, the most painful and humiliating death at the time.
Yet, it was only then, when he had paid the ultimate sacrifice, could he be exalted to the highest place next to the Father. It was after his life and death that He received his riches, greater than ever before.
Because now, it wasn’t just him who received riches from his rags. Now, ALL who believed in him and gave their lives for him would receive the same riches that he received. The same spotless record, the same standing before God, the same eternal promise.
When it comes to riches, I’ll take an eternal promise over a mansion and a Hummer any day.
“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 Corinthians 8:9]