Lectionary Commentaries for July 1, 2018
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Mark 5:21-43

Cláudio Carvalhaes

[Editor’s note: The author has read this text from the perspective of an immigrant, pairing the events of the gospel with the events of our time, imagining the gospel taking into account our own social situation.]

María de los Ángeles and her daughter Gloria lived in a very difficult situation in Central America. Their city was ruled by the local gangs and the state had not much power in the daily activities of the city. The gangs were made of boys and men who grew up in U.S. and were caught without document and sent back to their families. In U.S., they had learned to organize in gangs to protect themselves and this was all they knew. Thrown back to their families’ hometown they only had those skills to survive. Drug peddling (with the U.S. as a high consumer) difficult local economies, corrupt governments and erosion of basic social threads have created a complex system of which gangs have become a fundamental part.

María’s husband, Manuel, had gone to the U.S. but disappeared. They hadn’t had any news from him in about three years now. Knowing that María was alone with Gloria, gangs demanded her to cook for them. One day a group of drunken gang members went to her house while Gloria was at school and they raped María. It took a few days until María was able to get out of bed. Gloria was 6 years old and had to cook and clean and take care of her mother, not knowing why her mother was prostrate and barely speaking during these days.

When María was able to get up, she contacted a smuggler, a coyote, and made a deal with him to get her to the U.S. where she was still hoping to find Manuel and start a new life. She knew the gangs would come back and that that atrocious act would be common from now on. She didn’t have any money, but she sold the few things she had to make some cash and gave her house to the coyote as a payment for her crossing toward the U.S. She had to take la bestia, the train of death that crosses from Central America to the borders between Mexico and the U.S. She packed a bag and the only thing Gloria could take was a doll she loved.

The whole trip was scary and Gloria kept asking María to go back home. Gloria couldn’t sleep at night and when she did, her nightmares were filled with angry men around her and her mother. Her deepest fear was to lose her mother. One night she woke up all wet. Her mother asked her what happened and she said “Mama, soñé que te habían secuestrado. ¿Mama, por qué llevaron tan lejo de mí?” (“Mom, I dreamed that they had kidnapped you. Why did they take you away from me?”) María comforted her from her heart saying that she would never be taken away from Gloria. The travel to the border took days until they were taken to the big river called Rio Grande. They were to swim to the other side but neither of them knew how to swim. They were given floaters but Gloria was screaming out of fear. María had to hold her tight against her body and sing her a song she always loved when going to bed:

A la nanita nana nanita ella nanita ella

Mi niña tiene sueno bendito sea, bendito sea

Fuentecita que corre clara y sonora

Ruiseñor que en la selva cantando llora

Calla mientras la cuna se balansea

A la nanita nana, nanita ella

Mi niña tiene sueno bendito sea, bendito sea1

The coyotes were screaming and being violent because they were missing the point and the time to cross. It was dark and the only light was the moon. The water was cold; shaking, María held Gloria tight as they entered the water. Before they figured they wouldn’t sink because of the floaters, they got panicked and started screaming. Other people started screaming as well. Some people were drowning but the coyotes kept repeating ándale ándale ándale! (“Come on!”)

All the effort proved to be ineffective this time. La Migra (Customs and Border Patrol) was waiting for them in the other side with dogs and heavy guns. A helicopter came and the noise was even scarier than crossing Rio Grande. María and Gloria got to the other side together but as soon as they got there, officers separated them and placed them in different cars. At that time, María screamed with her entire lungs begging “Devuelve a mi hija! Mija! Mija! No te preocupes, iré a por ti mi amor, no te preocupes! Hace tus oraciónes cada vez que tengas miedo y cante nuestra canción!” (“Bring back my daughter! My baby! My baby! Don’t worry, I will come for you, my love! Don’t worry! Say your prayers every time you are afraid and sing our song!)

All María could hear from Gloria was “¡Madre! ¡Mamá! por favor dame mi mamá!” (“Mother! Mommy! Please give me my mommy!”)

Shivering, they were taken to different private jails and left there for a long time. María didn’t speak much and never left her cage besides going to the bathroom. Some lawyers did pro-bono work to help immigrants and Nancy was able to visit María. In her first conversation, María could barely speak. Nancy was counselled not to waste her time with those immigrant people since that wouldn’t lead anywhere, but it was work that kept her alive. She went to visit María every week and all María could say was “¿Dónde está mi hija?” (“Where is my daughter?”) Nancy was the only person that attended to María and she tried to find Gloria.

It was a long process and Nancy heard that Gloria was not to be found anywhere. However, she didn’t tell María. It took 12 months for Nancy to find Gloria. She was in a children’s facility in Sonora, Mexico. Nancy went to visit Gloria. She was skinny, barely spoke and was very sick. The doctors didn’t know how to animate her. Nancy went to her and said: “Gloria, yo soy Nancy y sé dónde está tu madre” (“Gloria, my name is Nancy and I know where your mother is”). Gloria jumped out of her bed and asked: “Donde está mi mama?” (“Where is my mommy?”) Nancy said: “She is a bit far from here but I will get you with her soon. But if you want to see your mama you need to eat.”

They hugged and cried and Gloria started to eat. They took a selfie and Nancy went back to the prison where María was and said: “María, tu hija está bien. Mira esta foto.” (Maria, your daughter is OK, look at this picture.) At that time, María felt a gush of life running through her body and the bleeding of her heart finally stopped. They hugged and Maria cried for almost an hour in Nancy’s chest. “Very soon Maria, very soon…” Nancy said to María.


1. “A La Nanita Nana,” http://thebirdsings.com/a-la-nanita-nana/

First Reading

Commentary on Lamentations 3:22-33

Robert Hoch

Spring is the time when elementary school children learn about the life-cycle of the butterfly.

Our son, seven-years old, was excited to report on the daily progress of a collection of Painted Lady butterflies stored in a classroom aquarium. The class studied the different stages of metamorphosis, from larva to caterpillar to pupa to butterfly. Finally, the day had arrived: the butterflies had emerged from their cocoons, their wings were dry and fully extended.

It was time to “graduate” this class of flying insects in the playground area of our downtown school. While we were not there to enjoy the moment, the pictures showed the children almost radiant with excitement, looking as if they felt something like awe in the presence of this dazzling insect perched on wrist or finger, watching as it prepared to launch itself into an emergent, still awakening world. A world not unlike their own…

How inexpressible those pictures!
How wondrously beautiful!
How fleeting the beauty of the butterfly and the innocence of the child, how!

In truth, those were not my thoughts as I looked at the pictures. They were my wife’s thoughts as we drove through an intersection near our house. It is not spring there. It always feels like winter. It is not a place where people are being born into wonder. Instead, this is one of the places where people with opioid addictions walk to-and-fro, the barely living, confined to slender medians, their peripatetic journeys regulated by stop-lights and traffic patterns; their bodies wasted, their eyes dimmed by the relentless demand of a chemical dependency; they ask for food, for money, for anything. Often, they carry a sign made out of cardboard, that speaks in the absence (or inadequacy) of speech: “Homeless. Anything helps. Bless you.”

As we passed through this intersection, she was reminded of the pictures of elementary school children, participating in a rite of spring, how different and yet still someone’s daughter, someone’s brother: “They were children once,” she said. “They were children who would laugh and be thrilled with something as simple as a butterfly … it’s heartbreaking to think about it.” But today, how different, how barren the reality of addiction to the experience of freedom and joy … and perhaps how strange: “To what can I liken you? … For vast as the sea is your ruin, who can heal you?” (Lamentations 2:13b)

In the Hebrew Bible, Lamentations has the title, “How.” This is the first word of the poem: “How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal!” (Lamentations 1:1).

As a title, the word “how” vocalizes the sharp stab of grief evoked by this poem. The writer mourns not only what has become of Jerusalem, but, perhaps, especially, the beauty that it was, the joy that it signified, the future that it promised. The poet grieves not only for a lost past but for a lost future. And perhaps, especially, the poet grieves the God who now seems like a stranger.

While the text assigned for the lectionary speaks of the beginning of hope, it represents an interruption of this long poem of grief. Indeed, it is a strategic, even decisive interruption of this poem, as it declares that God’s mercy is renewed every morning (Lamentations 2:22-24). But it begs the question, “What sort of book is Lamentations?”

As a poem, Lamentations negotiates catastrophic loss for which there are no adequate words. The writer employs the biblical language of lament, often found in the psalmist. The writer also employs acrostic, not simply as a literary device, but perhaps also as a way of mediating what is otherwise inexpressibly chaotic in ordinary language. Together, as it recalls the ancient vocabulary of lament through the restraint of an acrostic form, the poet supplies its readers with a literary strategy for navigating catastrophic loss.

The text assigned by the lectionary marks a break from the collective and corporate loss of hope to a more personal and, to that extent, reflective exercise which suggests the birth of hope amid suffering and loss. Its location in the middle of these poems of lament is not insignificant; maybe it functions as a “sign” to the reader that while this rejection feels complete, it is not. Indeed, God’s steadfast love still quickens the heart and the mind seeking wholeness.

The immediate context of these verses is shocking. Delbert R. Hillers detects a reversal of Psalm 23. God’s rod (and staff) is a source of affliction not a shepherd’s tool for guidance/defense (Lamentations 3:1, 7). Instead of bringing the “I” of chapter three into green pastures and alongside still waters, God has “driven” the speaker “into darkness without any light” (Lamentations 3:2), using language that sometimes signifies prison.

Instead of the goodness of the Lord following the speaker all the days of his life, the speaker knows only God’s judgment; God has turned the divine hand against the speaker (Lamentations 3:3). Hillers also notes similar language being used in the story of the wilderness journey in Exodus and in Second Isaiah, only this time reversed to show judgment rather than God’s grace.

Interestingly, hope emerges in a quiet place, still not quite hope but not quite complete despair, either. Hillers underlines a linguistic formula sometimes employed to suggest the beginning of a change: “So I say, ‘Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord’” (Lamentations 3:18). Jonah uses similar language in his psalm-prayer in the belly of the whale: “Then I said, I am driven away from your sight” (Jonah 2:4). Similarly, in Psalm 31: “I had said in my alarm” (Psalm 31:22a). Or in Isaiah: “But I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity” (Isaiah 49:4a).

Something similar occurs in Luke’s account of the Prodigal Son, who, as he “comes to himself” amid starvation and deep shame, asks himself, “How many of the servants in my father’s house have plenty to eat?” (Luke 15:17). The introduction of introspection, or thought about the thought of the speaker, especially her or his loss, intimates their “return” to hope and trust in God’s steadfast love. Steadfast love is not a passing phase in God but rather a foundational part of God’s character.

Michael visits our church from time to time. One Sunday, during prayers, he announced that he was clean and sober. A couple of weeks ago, he came to our adult forum, which is currently working through the Gospel of Mark. His head had been bloodied. Assaulted, he told us, while at a shelter. “I can’t live this way no more,” he cried. “Nobody is supposed to live this way.” It was strange, really, perhaps providential. Our text that day included Mark’s use of narrative “interpolation” — the practice of beginning one story and then interrupting it with another story before returning to the original story. Together, the stories provide insight rather than only a story, even a good story … or a tragic one.

I wonder if there isn’t a clue in Michael’s way of being with us that Sunday, an interruption or an eruption, suggesting the way God uses our gatherings (choreographed) to bring to speech that which we cannot or would not otherwise speak.


  1. Delbert R. Hillers, Lamentations: Introduction, Translation, and Notes in The Anchor Bible (Garden City: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1972), 69.
  2. Hillers, 70.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

David G. Garber, Jr.

It’s a classic trope of male-bonding and war literature.1

The hero of the story suffers the loss of either a compatriot or a mentor. Luke Skywalker loses Obi-Wan to his self-sacrifice on the Death Star; Maverick holds Goose in a Pietà pose in the ocean after his wingman (in both the battlefield and the night club) dies in training; the Avengers finally set their squabbles aside and band together after Loki kills Agent Phil Coulson. In this lectionary text, David loses both a mentor and a friend, even if their relationships have become complicated. Like the mourning of Luke, Maverick, and the Avengers, David recalls only the best details about his friendship with both Saul and Jonathan in his song commemorating their deeds. Likewise, the memory of the fallen propels the hero to even greater achievements as their story continues.

The song does not encompass David’s entire emotional outburst, though. After hearing of the details of Saul’s and Jonathan’s death at the hands of the Amalekite messenger, David rips his clothes and begins to weep and fast for all of the fallen soldiers of Israel (2 Samuel 1:12). He also confronts the Amalekite, who followed Saul’s own orders to end his misery (v. 9). David interrogates, “Were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” (v. 14) David then orders his men to kill the messenger for this offense.

These details from the intervening story that the lectionary omits are quite important to the interpretation of this passage and of David’s character moving forward in 2 Samuel. They foreshadow David’s future reign (the messenger also brought back Saul’s crown and armlet to give to David in v.10) and flashback to David’s actions and relationships with the two deceased rivals. In 1 Samuel 24, David had a chance to kill Saul himself. Instead, he cut a piece of Saul’s cloak, saying “The LORD forbid that I should do anything to my lord, the LORD’s anointed … for he is the LORD’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6). When David and his men have a second chance to kill Saul, David almost prophesies Saul’s demise saying that God will strike him down, he will die of natural causes, or he will die in battle (1 Samuel 26:10). Instead, he exclaims, “The LORD forbid that I should raise my hand against the LORD’s anointed” (1 Samuel 26:11). These two chances to kill Saul solidify David’s constant service to his prior master, even though they lived much of their lives at odds.

In his ode to Saul, David warns the enemies of Israel to stay silent and begs that even the land would fast from dew or rain to mourn the death of Israel’s shield, Saul their messiah (the transliteration of the term “anointed”). Even though Samuel had anointed David years earlier (1 Samuel 16:13), David continually recognizes Saul as God’s anointed until Saul’s death. David continues to praise this man and his son, Jonathan, who never retreated from Israel’s enemies: “The bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty” (2 Samuel 1:22).

In addition to his kingly mentor, David loses his best friend, Jonathan. Much of our current fascination with David’s and Jonathan’s relationship stems from this verse of the song: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (v. 26). While some have suggested that this line and its counterpart in 1 Samuel 19:1 suggest either a homosexual or homoerotic relationship between the two biblical figures, we must not forget that this song is poetry, where hyperbole and flowery language find their constant home. I do not say this in order to tear a possible homosexual relationship from the pages of scripture, but to suggest that David here is expressing appreciation for Jonathan’s brotherly companionship (he calls him “my brother”) through very trying times despite the fact that their friendship causes Jonathan to defy Saul, whose desire to kill David drives him mad. Moreover, this is war poetry, the realm where comrades in arms take priority over romantic relationships.

While David’s mourning is national, it is also personal. In it we catch a glimpse of David’s volatile emotional responses. David will mourn several times in his life, including before the death of his firstborn son with Bathsheba and at the death of his most beloved son, Absalom. He will go to war and commit murder (and perhaps he even does this when executing the Amalekite in this chapter). He will know the hate of many men and women in his future, including Jonathan’s sister and Saul’s daughter, Michal, and his own son, Absalom.

Like many chapters to come in 2 Samuel, this is another difficult passage to teach and for congregations to understand. Perhaps, though, it can serve as a passage that helps us understand the raw emotions of war, companionship, and death. Sometimes those emotions compel us to rash actions such as David’s execution of the Amalekite (maybe Saul’s mentorship had more of an impact on David than we like to admit). Sometimes they call for us to enter a stage of mourning. Perhaps, they remind us to take notice of the deeds of our friends before it is too late. In David’s case, Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths took on a greater importance. No longer does David live in the shadow of another of the LORD’s anointed ones. Now he must, for good and ill in the chapters to follow, take on the mantle of the anointed one that Samuel had bestowed upon him in his youth. His story henceforth becomes much more complex. He will have victories and will also make many mistakes. In this war story, gone are the days of the righteous boy who would be king. David will now become king and face several difficult decisions that have precarious effects for both his family and the nation of Israel.


1 Commentary first published on this site on June 28, 2015.


Commentary on Psalm 30

Carolyn J. Sharp

Psalm 30 frames the struggles of the life of faith within a glorious edifice: the Jerusalem Temple, a powerful cultural icon that “narrates” the faith of the believing community, the enduring presence of God, and the inviolability of God’s promises to Israel.1

The psalm is ascribed to David, but it is also designated for the dedication of the Temple. Since the dedication of the first Temple took place under Solomon (1 Kings 8:63), in view here must be either the dedication of the second Temple in 515 B.C.E. (Ezra 6:16) or its rededication in the Maccabean era (1 Maccabees 4).

The complexity of the superscription invites us to hear the psalm as a prophetic reflection on the fortunes of God’s people from the early monarchy through the Persian period or even later. “Temple” becomes a richly layered symbol for the participation of the faithful in worship through the centuries. In the sweeping historical perspective constructed by the superscription, the Temple with its liturgical rhythms becomes the spiritual edifice constructed by those who sing God’s praises in every generation.

The psalmist begins with a shout of praise: God has drawn him up, healed him, and restored his life! The psalmist names his experience of healing using allusions to mythic depths, hinting at the spiritual deeps from which God has drawn him up (verse 1) and referring explicitly to Sheol and the Pit (verse 3), tropes for the spiritually inert arena of dusty darkness that awaits the dead. A chiastic structure with healing at its center (verse 2) renders transparent the veil between this life, with its pragmatic challenges of sickness and enmity, and the underworld that exists outside of human time. The mythic places of chaos and meaninglessness press on every side, threatening not only those who have already expired but those who seek to flourish in the present moment.

The psalmist breaks off his narrative to exhort the gathered community to praise the LORD (verse 4). Implicitly, we are invited to join the ranks of God’s seasoned “faithful ones.” The basis for praise? Experiences of divine punishment are only fleeting, whereas God’s favor lasts “for a lifetime.” The Hebrew phrasing here may be read in a theologically profound way: “a moment” is contrasted not with “length of days” or “all the days of my life” or another such commonplace expression of time, but with life itself (chayyim; compare Psalm 36:9 and 42:2.2  Transient pain is answered by God’s eternal grace.

The following lines feint toward the continued establishment of the one who praises God for divine favor: “I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’ By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain.” But the confidence of the psalmist is decimated by two startling words in the Hebrew: histarta paneka, “You hid your face.” All his strong talk is unraveled in a moment of abandonment! We are undone as well, for we trusted this narratorial voice.

The psalmist had not been boasting in any untoward way; he had rightly credited God’s “favor” as the means by which he had been caused to prosper. Surprised by his experience of abandonment, we find ourselves standing with the psalmist in that ragged liminal moment in which praise shades over into mourning. With his remembrance of having been left by God, the psalmist not only subverts false confidence. He renders poignant — and fragile — the shouts of praise that still echo in the sanctuary.

We are compelled to face the terrifying absence of God in the very midst of our singing. The psalmist challenges God with a barrage of rhetorical questions and impassioned pleas (verses 9-10). But this, too, is faith, for the psalmist’s anguished “Hear, O LORD!” (shema Adonai) evokes the majestic Shema Yisrael that perpetually reestablishes the covenant relationship between God and people (Deuteronomy 6:4).

We could try to dismiss the psalmist’s cries as irrelevant now, in the present moment of healing. But because of the brilliant way in which the psalm weaves together past and present, these sharp challenges to God remain forceful. Their traces cannot be silenced even in a sanctuary resounding with praise. The psalm may move gracefully into joy once again (verses 11-12), but we are left with trauma as an insistent memory just beneath the surface of our recovery.

Psalm 30 inscribes holy space in two temporal dimensions. One dimension is the contested space of historical time lived in God’s presence. We are drawn into the drama of the life of the believer with its doubts and joys, its anger and trust, its barely-suppressed fear of enemies. But another temporal dimension unfolds as well: the sacred space of eternity, in which God’s favor continually heals believers and clothes them with joy. Mourning turns to dancing; sackcloth is traded for a garment of rejoicing. These are liturgical terms: we are led to perceive the “Temple,” as both literal and spiritual edifice, holding together these two dimensions of faithful living.

It is not the case that we struggle and then are healed, once and for all. That might suggest that God’s redemption is a commodity that believers could seek to manipulate liturgically. Rather, we seek God through the changeable rhythms of joyous praising and bitter wrestling. Faith is lived in a dance of mourning and rejoicing — a dance that is by turns brutal and lyrical, as the turbulent Hebrew meter of this poem might suggest. Belief means alternately challenging and submitting to One whose power to save cannot be bounded by our expectations.

In many Christian traditions, Psalm 30 is read at the Easter Vigil in all three lectionary years. The suggestion is an ancient one that this psalm speaks of God’s mercy overcoming death itself. Augustine interpreted the psalm as singing “the joy of the resurrection” (see his Exposition on the Psalms at Psalm XXX). But this psalm resists any sort of triumphalist plot-line. God is not always experienced as loving and present.

And so we preach the good news of God’s mercy while honoring the reality of the spiritual bleakness that even seasoned believers can experience. We acclaim God in times of joy and desolation alike, for we testify to an incarnate Lord who struggled with temptation in the desert and cried out his despair on the Cross. Psalm 30 is urgently necessary for preachers because it invites us into an honest ministry of accompaniment. We can proclaim God’s redemption in Christ persuasively only while walking with our beloved community through its dark and agonistic experiences of the Cross.

1 Commentary first published on this site on July 1, 2012.

2 Due to variant numbering in the Hebrew text, the corresponding verses in Hebrew are Psalm 36:10 and 42:3.

Second Reading

Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

David E. Fredrickson

The Greek letter π (p) pops up twenty-four times in these verses. In eighteen instances, p is the first letter of a word.

In six cases, p follows a vowel or a diphthong (two vowels pronounced as a single sound). Since, however, one of the habits of ancient Greek texts, unlike the custom of English and other modern languages, was to run words together without breaks (scriptio continua), the distinction between beginning p and the p following a vowel or diphthong falls away. What we are left with is the fact that 2 Corinthians 6:7-15, because of the frequency of p, ought not be read out loud by one person in close proximity to another, at least not within spitting distance, unless caution is exercised. The poor listener to all the p’s streaming from the pronunciation of this Greek text would soon need a towel.

Spit. Not a topic for polite society. Replacing spit with spittle might make this discussion slightly more decorous, and whatever word is used for the excess saliva coating the inside of one’s mouth, refusing to go away each time a swallow is taken, and without permission catching a ride on consonants with explosive potential such as p, to the consternation of both speaker and nearby listener, this much must be said: 2 Corinthians 6:9 can’t be understood without thinking spit. And not just thinking about spit but actually thinking spit in the same moment you take into your imagination the word poverty from the text. Why? Because ptocheia — the Greek word standing behind poverty — was a spit word.

Even more, the t following the p in ptocheia is equally explosive. This further underlines the disgust attaching to poverty, which in fact makes poverty an inadequate translation of ptocheia. (I, however, do not have a better one). If saying p out loud with vigor sends out droplets of spit, can you imagine the countless droplets words beginning with pt might produce?

The letter t is every bit as explosive as p. Think of the tongue saying p and then quite distinctly t too throws itself away from the hard palate in a fit of rage over the thought of being like that beggar sitting there in his own filth asking me for money. Me, ho plousios. Words starting with pt indicate alarm and terror (as in the case of birds beating their wings or in Plato’s description of the female fluttering soul). But more, words starting with pt are pronounced to ward off envy, that is, spitting averts the evil eye, the eye of the poor man that stares at me wanting my fullness for himself. Ptooey on you!

To say poor in Greek, then, you had to spit, or more accurately, the letter combination gave you, if you were not poor, the opportunity to degrade the poor by spitting and saying their name in the same breath. That opportunity — how many times it was seized upon we will never know — says a great deal about the disgust the poor person was held in by the rich (oi ploutoi). The rich of course have (a) different p. Go soft on the initial p of ploutos and linger a bit on at the lou and you arrive at a sensation of fullness, and self-satisfaction and forward movement as when wind fills (pleroun) a sail and you begin a voyage (ho plous).

Here is 2 Corinthians 6:9 in transliteration: di’ humas eptocheusen plousios on, hina humeis te ekeinou ptocheia ploutesete. A wooden but thought-provoking translation goes like this (key words left untranslated to protect them from Western habits of thought that only allows the rich to give gifts):

on account of you he, though being plousios, ptocheia-ed in order that you might plouteo by the ptocheia of that one.

A bit of a mess to be sure. I have retained the Greek plousios not only because it starts with pl but also because it does not align completely with rich in the New Revised Standard Version. I have also made up a word by substituting the Greek noun ptocheia (which occurs in the second half of the verse) and added the English morpheme ed to it with the idea of making a verb that catches what is going on with eptocheusen.

So why not just translate ptocheia as poverty and plousios as rich and be done with it? Because, as I said above, the root ptoch communicated to ancient readers so much more than the idea of a lack of possessions or money: words with ptoch in them embody disgust. And words starting with plou have the sense of fullness, flowing, and satisfaction about them.

Now here is the exegetical payoff for these linguistic acrobatics. In Paul’s view, Christ made others rich not in the way the rich normally help the poor, by giving out of their fullness. He enriched others (but what kind of wealth is this?) by giving out of the nothing he had to give. He pulled of a real miracle, one that makes walking on water look like child’s play. He made others rich by making himself a beggar, by being one of the disgusting have-nots, and by giving out of his nothingness like the poor widow of Mark 12. And this gift Paul calls grace (charis), the lovely sound of ch softly scratching against the soft palate, way back in the mouth, spitting on no one.