Was Jesus Wealthy?
aymon de albatrus
“And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head.” (Mat 8:20)
“And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head.” (Luk 9:58)
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich.” (2Co 8:9)
There is a modern school of evangelists that proclaim that Jesus was a rich man, this they say to support their position by twisting Scripture, but the words of Jesus dispel this fancy notion.
Jesus, above, in His human nature "the son of man," expresses the poverty and condition of his human nature, for even the most despicable of creatures in the earth and air were richer than He. This He said, to convince the Scribe of his mistake; who expected much worldly grandeur and wealth, by becoming His disciple.
Our Lord squarely and honestly is telling this kind of disciple to carefully count the cost in following Him for He has not even for Himself a warm home, nor a fluffy pillow or a regular warm meal. He then adds that even the foxes are not without their holes, nor do the birds of the air lack their nests; but the Son of man has to depend on the hospitality of others, and borrow the pillow whereon to lay His head. The Lord does not reject this man’s offer, nor refuses him the liberty to follow Him. Only He will have him consider carefully what he is doing, and "count the cost" for it will be a life of poverty, and not of riches, apart the persecutions.
So much for a Wealthy Jesus. Here He is plainly saying to the man that he does not know what it is to follow Him; in effect He is saying to the would be disciple: “my external condition is worse than that of the birds of the air, they have their own nests, or the beasts of the earth, the worst of them have holes, but I have no fixed habitation on earth”. It is obvious that Jesus had no part in the Prosperity Gospel and it is clear that our modern Evangelists are preaching another gospel (Gal 1:6).
Of course here we are looking at Jesus in His human nature and as the “Son of man” He was indeed very poor, He had nothing material. But in His divine nature He had all things for by Him all things were created and He is the absolute owner of everything: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” (Joh 1:1-3)
Though he was rich. The riches of the Redeemer here referred to all He has created as the God of creation which stand opposed to that poverty which He assumed and manifested when He dwelt among men in human nature. It implies
His eternity as the creator and possessor of all things but He made Himself poor in this world for our sake. He did not lay aside for Himself wealth here for he had none, but He could have had. He never was rich on earth, for he had no earthly wealth. Financially He was poor but He had all power, even in his poverty, to still the waves, and to raise the dead, and he was always full of the Holy Ghost. His family was poor; and His parents were poor; and He was himself poor all His life. He made Himself poor for the sake of His people for He was made in the likeness of men without reputation (Phi 2:6,7).
That He was infinitely rich as the Lord and Proprietor of all things. He was the Creator of all Col 1:16) and as Creator he had a right to all things, and the disposal of all things. The most absolute right which can exist is that acquired by the act of creation; and this right the Son of God possessed over all the treasures of the universes, nothing excluded. What wealth has man that can compare with the riches of the Creator and Proprietor of all? Especially when ALL things belong to Him, even our own lives! (1Co 4:7) What claim can mortal men apply to themselves under this situation? NONE
Yet for our sake He became poor. For the sake of His people that were to be redeemed He made Himself poor that we may become rich:
He chose a condition of poverty, in the form of a servant Phi 2:7.
He was born in a poor family. Though of the family and lineage of David yet the family had fallen into decay, and was poor.
His whole life was a life of poverty. He had no home; He chose to be dependent on the charity of the few friends that He drew around him, all poor, rather than to create food for the abundant supply of His own wants. He had no farms or plantations; He had no splendid palaces; He had no money hoarded in useless coffers or in banks; He had no property to distribute to his friends. When He died He commended His mother to the charitable attention of one of His disciples, and all his personal property seems to have been the raiment which He wore, and which was divided among the soldiers that crucified Him.
He formed no plan for becoming rich, and he always spoke with the deepest earnestness of the dangers which attend the effort to accumulate property. He spoke most strongly against hoarding riches: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:” (Mat 6:19-20) “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mat 16:26)
He died poor. He made no will in regard to his property, for he had none to dispose of. He knew well enough the effect which would follow if he had amassed wealth, and had left it to be divided among his followers. They were very imperfect; and even around the cross there might have been anxious discussion, and perhaps strife about it, as there is often now over the coffin and the unclosed grave of a rich and foolish father who has died. Jesus intended that His disciples should never be turned away from the great work to which He called them, by any wealth which He would leave them; and He left them not even a keepsake as a memorial of His name. All this is the more remarkable, from two considerations:
That He had it in his power to choose the manner in which He would come. He might have come in the condition of a splendid prince. He might have ridden in a chariot of ease, or have dwelt in a magnificent palace. He might have lived with more than the magnificence of an oriental prince; and might have bequeathed treasures greater than those of Solomon to his followers. But He chose not to do it.
It would have been as right and proper for Him to have amassed wealth, and to have sought princely possessions, as for any of His followers. What is right for them would have been right for Him. Men often mistake on this subject; and though it cannot be demonstrated that all his followers should aim to be as poor as He was, yet it is undoubtedly true that He meant that His example should operate constantly to check their desire of amassing wealth. In Him it was voluntary; in us there should be always a readiness to be poor, if such be the, will of God; there should be rather a preference to be in moderate circumstances, that we may thus be like the Redeemer.
That ye through His poverty might be rich. That is, might have durable and eternal riches, the riches of God’s everlasting favour. This includes
The present possession of an interest in the Redeemer Himself, Jesus Christ. He who has an interest in the Redeemer has a possession that is of more value than all that the world can bestow.
The right to the eternal inheritance, the prospect of immortal glory, Rom 8:17.
Everlasting treasures, in heaven. Thus the Saviour compares the heavenly blessings to treasures on earth, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mat 6:20-21) And if you heart is set on worldly riches that perish and disappear, then you also will suffer the same end.
In a world where gain is the great object, where all men are forming plans for becoming rich, it is well to have one great model that shall continually demonstrate the folly of it, and that shall point to better things.
The Lord does not want us to be poor for poverty sake, but He cautions us not to make amassing riches as our aim in life for earthly riches are worth nothing in eternity: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mat 16:26)
Jesus Christ in His human nature lost everything on the cross to make us rich in eternity by salvation and partakers of His Kingdom.
When the rich young man went to Jesus bragging that he had kept the Law, Jesus told him that he was not perfect yet, but he had to become poor, i.e. give all his large wealth to the poor and to follow Him as he was, poor. The rich guy got very hurt about that and walked away from Jesus for he was very rich. To that Jesus said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mar 10:25), signifying that the attractions of this world can hinder badly the entrance into Heaven, indeed not many rich followed Christ, if any. Still with God all things are possible (Mar 10:27).
Some keen supporters of the prosperity gospel latch on the fact that the top coat of Jesus “now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout” was of one piece and the soldiers decided to cast lot for it (Joh 19:23) because it was very valuable. Well the soldiers cast lots because if the coat was to be cut in four parts it would have been useless given the way it was formed, not because it was extremely valuable. This coat was not made by an expensive French couturier but most probably it was the handy work of one or more of the simple women who ministered in such things unto Him, Luk 8:3. Truly the human mind is supreme in rationalising what it wants to prove.
Let’s look at the clear biblical evidence if Jesus was rich. Well, Jesus was born in a stable (his parents knew the approximate time of his birth so they could have reserved a place if they were rich, indeed and God could have made sure He had a room) but it was to be in a stable, a cave with Jesus lying in a manger Luk 2:16, Mary could sacrifice only two turtle doves which was a poor households sacrifice for the purification of child birth (Lev 12:2-8; Luk 2:24). Jesus gave up all the riches that are His in heaven to become a man and was born to a poor family (though not destitute). His stepfather Joseph was a carpenter, if they had much money from the gold given at His birth (as some claim) he would not have had need to work anymore as he did, for the Word cites "the carpenter's son" when Jesus was in His 30's (Mat 13:55). The Bible does not mention Jesus’ riches at all but Him being rather poor.
As Jesus grew up he worked in the trade of His stepfather as a carpenter, following the standard tradition, not a trade known for its wealth. How could Jesus become rich with a step-dad who was just a carpenter? There is absolutely no indication anywhere that He was wealthy from His family or from travelling with His disciples. By the way, He took no tithes and He and His disciples lived on people’s offerings. Indeed when He sent His disciples preaching from town to town He specifically asked them to take nothing with them: “And He said to them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor money, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.” (Luk 9:3) They were to live in faith that God will provide for their needs, as He provided for His Son.
In Luke 2:22-24, Jesus is taken to the Temple by his parents for the presentation of Jesus as every newborn baby boy had to be (Luk 2:23) and for the purification of Mary but they could offer only poor families sacrifice of two pigeons (according to Leviticus 12:8.) If they had been rich as the prosperity teachers say they would have had to make a larger sacrifice. If they did not and were rich they would break the Law and Jesus parents were very pious people, not prone to break the Law.
He was buried in another mans tomb, a rich man’s. If he was rich or his family, they would have buried him in his own family tomb. But this again proves that He had no money for this. Neither did his family nor the Apostles have the money to buy such a burial; it was borrowed, actually donated to be exact. After all it would not be permanent. Jesus in his ministry had borrowed many things: a manger, He borrowed boats, He borrowed a colt; He borrowed a house for Passover and He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Christ came in complete humility as stated in 2Co 8:9 “Christ, that though He was rich, [owning everything] yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (Meaning spiritually rich.)
In conclusion we can say that God does not keep His people abjectly poor, for He does provide for their needs indeed and Jesus and His disciples were not destitute beggars in the street, they had a meal and a roof, whether theirs or offered by someone else to support their ministry. The minister is worthy of his wage (1Ti 5:18) and the Lord provides for all his bodily needs and has always done so for His people. God can very well make someone rich (as He did with Abraham), but one must always remember that this wealth is not his (1Co 4:7) but the Lord's and that he is only a steward. Here we are talking against the love of being rich that is not pertaining to a follower of Christ and a child of God for the love of money is the root of all evils (1Ti 6:10). It is very rare to see a rich person serving the Lord with all his heart, for one thing he ought to get rid of his money as Jesus commanded the rich young ruler, but as the young man, he will not do so.
We should have no attachment to this world with its mammon for if it is so, then like Lot’s wife our heart is with the world and not with Heaven and we shall not enter in it. Our attitude should be like David’s that asked the Lord not to make him too poor or too rich lest he forgets Him.