One of the arguments used by those who oppose the idea of material prosperity for Christians is that Jesus was poor during the time He lived on earth. They say He lived an impoverished life from the time He was born in a stable and laid in a manger bed, throughout His ministry when He had no home, until He was crucified and buried in a borrowed tomb.
The idea of Jesus’ poverty has been repeated so often and passed down for so long that most people never stop to question it and see if it is scripturally valid. But that does not make it right. In fact, I believe that this commonly accepted teaching is totally contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture.
The truth is that in no way did Jesus live a “destitute, inferior, indigent, needy, impoverished, feeble, pitiful, lacking, insufficient” life. Those terms are all used in defining the meaning of the word “poor.”
Yes, on the night Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had to take shelter in a stable. They wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. But nowhere in the Gospel accounts does it say they were in the stable because they didn’t have enough money to rent a room.
At that particular time, so many people had converged on the little town of Bethlehem for the tax census decreed by the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, that there was no room in the inn. In other words, by the time Joseph and Mary arrived, every motel had a No Vacancy sign posted. So not having a room in overcrowded Bethlehem was certainly no indication of poverty.
Next, let’s look at the two primary scriptures used to substantiate the idea that Jesus was poor.
And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. — Luke 9:58
For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. — 2 Corinthians 8:9
The verse in Luke is often interpreted to mean that Jesus lived such an impoverished life that He never owned a home or had a place to stay after He began His earthly ministry. We’ll take a closer look at the true meaning of this verse a little later in this chapter.
When Did Jesus Become Poor?
The passage in Second Corinthians undeniably declares that Jesus became poor and experienced poverty. But when? Was it during His entire earthly life? During His years of ministry? Exactly when did Jesus become poor?
I suggest to you that Jesus was not a poor man during the thirty-three years of His earthly life, including the three years of His earthly ministry. He was made poor upon the Cross when He became our Substitute and paid the penalty and price for our sin.
Isaiah 53, the great substitutionary chapter of the Bible, speaks of how Jesus bore our sins and everything connected to them. Jesus took upon Himself what belonged to us so that we could receive what belongs to Him.
Surely he hath borne our GRIEFS [the word translated “griefs” is the Hebrew word “choli,” which means diseases], and carried our SORROWS [this is the Hebrew word “makob,” which means pains]: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: the CHASTISEMENT OF OUR PEACE was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. AH we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief [The Amplified Bible says, “He has put Him to grief and made Him sick”]: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. – Isaiah 53:4-6, 10
The word translated “peace” in verse 5 is the Hebrew word “shalom,” which has the following meanings and connotations: safe, well, happy, welfare, health, prosperity, and rest. In other words, this passage tells us that God allowed Jesus to bear our sins and sicknesses so that by His stripes, we could have healing, peace, safety, wellness, happiness, rest, and prosperity.
There are other important “substitutionary” verses to consider.
For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be SIN for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God in him. — 2 Corinthians 5:21
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made A CURSE for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree: that THE BLESSING of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. — Galatians 3:13, 14
At Calvary, Christ took on sickness to provide us health. He was made sin so we could be made the righteousness of God. He was made a curse so we could receive the blessing.
Let’s look again at Second Corinthians 8:9. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became POOR, that ye through his POVERTY might be RICH.”
We see that by His sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus took our poverty to provide us the riches of His grace. He became poor that we might be rich, which means abundant provision!
When did Jesus take on sin, sickness, the curse, and poverty? On the Cross! He did this so we could receive health, righteousness, blessing, and prosperity. He took the punishment that belonged to us so that we could receive the blessings that belong to Him.
The reason I am so certain this is what the Scriptures are saying is because the Gospels, when properly examined and rightly divided, do not portray Jesus as a poverty-stricken individual. On the contrary, Jesus is seen as a Man whose needs were met and who was regularly involved in meeting the needs of others.
Gifts of Treasure
Let’s start at the very beginning of Jesus’ life. As a very young child, Jesus received some very costly and valuable gifts from the wise men, or magi, who traveled from Persia to find and worship the newborn “King of the Jews” whose star they had seen in the east. The Gospel account makes it clear that the gifts they brought to present to Jesus were not just cheap trinkets.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had OPENED THEIR TREASURES, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. — Matthew 2:11
Other translations of the same verse confirm that the wise men brought rich and valuable gifts. The Williams translation refers to their “treasure sacks,” and The Amplified Bible says “treasure bags.” The Modern Language translation says “treasure chests,” The Twentieth Century New Testament says “treasures,” while the Knox translation renders it “store of treasures.”
Herod the king, whom the Roman authorities had allowed to be the local Jewish ruler, became very jealous and suspicious of the infant King who possibly one day would dethrone him. So he ordered the slaughter of all the male children in the region of Bethlehem who were two years old or younger.
Being warned by an angel in a dream, Joseph took Mary and the baby Jesus and fled by night, making the long trek into Egypt. So it is possible—even probable—that the “prosperity” of the wise men’s gifts assisted Jesus’ family in the move to Egypt and perhaps sustained them all the months they were there.
Jesus Had Ministry Partners
When Jesus launched His public ministry, He called twelve disciples to travel with Him. For three years, He and His little band travelled all over Palestine, throughout the region of Galilee, down the Jordan River to the hills of Judaea, and up to Jerusalem.
Even in those days, when travel meant walking or riding an animal, sometimes sleeping under the open skies or seeking shelter in the homes of friends, keeping that many people on the road must have involved considerable expense. Food and clothing for a dozen or more people, day after day, week after week, required that Jesus have enough funds to pay their way.
Where did the money come from? The Bible tells us that Jesus had ministry partners who helped provide His support.
And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and MANY OTHERS,WHICH MINISTERED UNTO HIM OF THEIR SUBSTANCE. — Luke 8:1-3
Notice how verse 3 reads in some other translations.
The Wuest version says,
“. . . and others, many of them, who were of such a nature that THEY KEPT ON SUPPLYING THEM with food and the other necessities of life out of their possessions.”
The Williams translation renders the verse,
“…and many other women, who CONTINUED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THEIR NEEDS out of their personal means”
The Phillips translation says,
“… and many others who USED TO LOOK AFTER HIS [JESUS’] COMFORT from their own resources”
Does this sound like Jesus and His disciples were poor and destitute, a traveling band of beggars who lived off the land, hand-to-mouth? Absolutely not. Their needs were met through the generosity of many partners who faithfully and consistently supported Jesus’ ministry financially.
Was Jesus Homeless?
Contrary to traditional thinking, Jesus did have a place of residence. The passage most often cited by people in an attempt to prove that Jesus never owned a home or had a residence is found in Luke chapter 9. Let’s read all the related verses in context.
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven , Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” — Luke 9:51-58 (MV)
Reading in context, we learn that in verse 58 Jesus was simply saying, “At this time in My life, I am on the move. I’m going forward on My way to fulfil My mission. I’m not settling down on this earth, but I’m on My way to be taken up to Heaven.”
Notice that there are other scriptures that seem to indicate that Jesus did have an earthly home or residence.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali… — Matthew 4:12, 13 (NIV)
The Williams translation of verse 13 says,
“But he left Nazareth and made His home in Capernaum…”
Wuest renders the same verse,
“And having abandoned Nazareth…He established His permanent home in Capernaum…”
Now look at Matthew 9:1. It says,
“Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town” (NIV).
Williams translates this verse,
“And He got into a boat and crossed to the other side, and went into His home town.”
The Wuest version says,
“And having gone on board the boat, he crossed over and entered his own city.”
How does someone have his “own town,” his “home town,” and his “own city” unless he lives there? And how does he live there unless he has a place to live?
Mark 2:1 is also very interesting. It reads,
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home” (NIV).
In the Williams version, the verse reads,
“After some days He came back to Capernaum, and it was reported that He was at home.”
Wuest’s translation says,
“And having again entered Capernaum, after some days He was heard of as being at home.”
Jesus couldn’t “come home” or be reported as being “at home” if He didn’t have a home. The argument that Jesus didn’t have a home cannot be used as proof of the poverty of Jesus because Scripture indicates that Jesus did indeed have a home.
Fishing for Gold
There are other scriptural indications that Jesus didn’t live a poverty-stricken life. For example, when it was necessary, God’s miracle power operated through Jesus to meet His needs and the material needs of others.
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up ,and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” — Matthew 17:24-27 (RSV)
Two other passages in Matthew also illustrate God’s miracle-working power to provide for people’s material needs. Matthew14:15-21 tells the story of the feeding of the five thousand men with five loaves and two fish. Matthew 15:32-39 relates the story of the feeding of four thousand men with seven loaves and a few fish.
During His ministry on the earth, time and again Jesus demonstrated that the resources necessary to meet every need were available to Him.
Assisting the Poor
Another reason I believe Jesus was prosperous is that the Bible indicates that Jesus’ ministry assisted the poor financially on a regular basis.
The Apostle John’s account of the Last Supper is one of the most powerful and moving passages in the New Testament, filled with important and significant events. John chapter 13 tells about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, foretelling His betrayal, giving the new commandment to love one another, and warning Peter of his imminent denial of the Lord.
But people sometimes overlook three very important verses regarding Judas that emphasize the fact that Jesus’ ministry had sufficient means to assist the poor financially—apparently on a regular basis.
When Satan entered into Judas and put it into his heart to betray Jesus, he got up from the supper to go out. John 13 records the story.
…Then said Jesus unto him [Judas], that thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, BUY THOSE THINGS THAT WE HAVE NEED OF AGAINST THE FEAST; OR, THAT HE SHOULD GIVE SOMETHING TO THE POOR. — John 13:27-29
Why would the other disciples have thought Judas was going to buy something or give money to the poor unless that was something he had been sent to do before, or perhaps was in the habit of doing on a regular basis? Obviously, neither of these possible actions seemed unusual or noteworthy to the eleven, probably indicating that they had seen both things occur with some frequency in the past.
Buying provisions for a feast and giving to the poor were apparently ordinary events to the disciples. And a person can’t do either of these without having money.
Judas the Treasurer
We know Jesus had some money at least, because He had a treasurer who regularly embezzled money from the funds entrusted to his keeping.
John 12:6 says,
“…As keeper of the money bag, he [Judas] used to help himself to what was put into it” (NIV).
The Williams translation of John 12:6 reads,
“. . . As the carrier of the purse for the Twelve he was in the habit of taking what was put into it.”
I believe it is reasonable to assume that poor, penniless, destitute people don’t have a treasurer or designated person to carry their money around. Jesus and the disciples had enough funds that they put someone in charge of handling them.
Also, the Gospel account suggests there were enough funds in the treasury that Judas could steal some from time to time without it being immediately noticed. A treasurer couldn’t regularly embezzle money from the bag unless there was a continual supply of money going into it. If there was enough money in the bag for Judas to embezzle on a regular basis and still have enough to sustain the group, Jesus could not have been poor.
Jesus Distinguished Himself From the Poor
During a visit to the Bethany home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, Jesus said to the guests at the supper,
“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me”(John 12:8 NIV).
Notice that Jesus didn’t call Himself poor. He made a definite distinction between the poor and Himself.
Some people have mistakenly thought that this statement implied that Jesus was saying that helping the poor is unimportant. However, the Old Testament reference He was quoting strongly indicates that this is not what Jesus meant.
Deuteronomy 15:11 says,
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (NIV).
In effect, Jesus was saying, “There will always be poor people who need help, and you should help them as much as you can. But I’m only going to be here a very short time, and this woman [who anointed His feet with expensive ointment] took advantage of a very limited opportunity. You will always have opportunities to help the poor, but I won’t be here very much longer.”
The point is that not once did Jesus identify Himself as one of the poor. He did not say, “There will always be poor people like Me.” Instead, He made a definite distinction between the poor and Himself.
We find another scriptural indication that Jesus wasn’t poor in the fact that He was not the least bit bothered when perfume worth a year’s salary was used to anoint His feet.
Let’s examine this story as it is written in Luke’s Gospel.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? IT WAS WORTH A YEAR’S WAGES.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the moneybag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” — John 12:1-8 (NIV)
A poor man, not used to having anything, more than likely would not have had a relaxed attitude to a “year’s salary” being poured over his feet. But Jesus was not intimidated, concerned, or uncomfortable in the slightest about the value of the perfume Mary used to anoint His feet. How could this be?
Consider Who Jesus Really Was!
Jesus was—and is—the Creator of the universe and of this world! The Gospel of John declares,
“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (1:3).
Colossians 1:16 proclaims,
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”
Now consider Jesus’ real home, the place He created for Himself and, eventually, for us to dwell in. Remember, everyone endeavors to make his own home a place that is suited to his own tastes, a place where it is comfortable for him to live. Jesus’ home was described for us in the Book of Revelation.
…The Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates. . . . The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious .stone. . . . The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. — Revelation 21:10-12, 18, 19, 21 (NIV)
Who could design and create such a magnificent dwelling place? Psalm 24:10 gives us the answer:
“Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.”
Let’s look at some Bible passages that help us catch a glimpse of the majesty and power of God. (And remember, if these things were said of God, they also pertain to Jesus. John 10:30 says, “I [Jesus] and my Father are one,” and John 14:9 says, “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father…”
Melchizedek referred to God as,
“…The most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.” — Genesis 14:19
Moses said that,
“…The earth is the Lord’s.” — Exodus 9:29
Joshua said God is,
“Lord of all the earth.” — Joshua 3:11
King David said,
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.” —1 Chronicles 29:11, 12 (NIV)
God, speaking about Himself to Job, said,
“Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” — Job 41:11 (NIV)
The Psalmist David declared,
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” — Psalm 24:1
David also said,
“…the earth is full of thy riches.” — Psalm 104:24
God said of Himself,
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” — Psalm 50:10, 42
God said to Isaiah,
“…The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” — Isaiah 66:1
Through Haggai, God said,
“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.” — Haggai 2:8
Zechariah referred to God as the,
“Lord of the whole earth.” — Zechariah 4:14; 6:5
Paul said twice in First Corinthians 10,
“. . . The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” — 1 Corinthians 10:26, 28
Writing in Philippians, Paul said that Jesus,
“… being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” — Philippians 2:6-11
Jesus was with the Father at the dawn of creation and lived in Heaven with the Father and the angels. Revelation 21:21 says that the streets of Heaven are pure gold. Gold to Jesus is what asphalt is to us! Jesus created this world with all its gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and every kind of natural resource. The cattle upon a thousand hills are His. He created it all. No wonder He wasn’t the least bit bothered by a little perfume being poured upon His feet.
Jesus Never Lacked
At the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, His own disciples testified that they never lacked anything.
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. — Luke 22:35 (NIV)
If the disciples testified that they had experienced no lack as they carried out their ministry assignments, we can assume that they had a full supply and abundant provision. At the very least, they had enough—an adequate supply for their needs. And that’s not poor!
Jesus Wore Nice Clothes
When Jesus was crucified, His clothes were nice enough that the soldiers divided them among themselves and gambled for His coat.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. — John 19:23, 24
Would Roman soldiers cast lots for the tattered and torn rags of a beggar or the shabby, worn clothes of a poor man? No, of course not!
Was Jesus Poor or Prosperous?
Let’s go back to our original question. I believe the Bible addresses this issue in detail and offers a clear and compelling answer. Based on the verses we have examined in this chapter, do you think Jesus fits the definition of the word “poor”? In other words, do you think Jesus was indigent, impoverished, needy, wanting in material goods, destitute, feeble, dejected, worthy of pity or sympathy, inferior, pitiful, second-class, second-rate, lacking, or insufficient.
On the other hand, consider the definition of the word “prosperous”—marked by success or economic well-being, enjoying vigorous and healthy growth, flourishing, successful, robust, progressing, favorable.
Which definition best describes the biblical Jesus? Let’s review the information about Jesus we discovered in God’s Word:
As a child, Jesus received gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Jesus had many partners who faithfully and consistently supported His ministry financially.
The Bible indicates that Jesus had a house or a residence.
When it was necessary, God’s miraculous power operated through Jesus to see that His needs and the needs of others were met.
The Bible indicates that Jesus’ ministry assisted the poor financially on a regular basis.
Jesus had a treasurer who regularly embezzled money from the funds entrusted to him.
Jesus distinguished Himself from the poor.
Jesus was not the least bit bothered when perfume worth a year’s salary was used to anoint His feet.
The testimony of Jesus’ own disciples at the end of His earthly ministry was that they never lacked anything.
When Jesus was crucified, His clothes were nice enough that the soldiers gambled for them.
I believe these scriptural facts are compelling proof that Jesus was not poor, but was a prosperous man. Now I am not suggesting that He lived a lavish or extravagant lifestyle—that would not have been practical for Him. But Jesus had His needs met during His life on earth, and He was able to do what God asked Him to do.
Jesus’ prosperity should not surprise us. The Old Covenant promised prosperity to those who walked in the will of God (see Deuteronomy 29:9; Joshua 1:7; 1 Kings 2:3; 1 Chronicles 22:13; 2Chronicles 20:20 and 26:5; Job 36:11; Nehemiah 1:11, and Psalm1:1-3).
Do you think that Jesus met the qualification of walking in God’s will? Of course, He did. He declared in John 6:38,
“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.”
Do you think that the Father kept His Word and blessed Jesus because He walked in the Father’s will? Absolutely! Numbers 23:19 says,
“God is not a man, that he should lie . . . hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
Jesus was not poor. He walked in prosperity according to the Abrahamic Covenant.