Jesus, The Poor Rich Man

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…”

– Paul (Phil. 4:11)

Was Jesus poor, or was He rich? This is a very important question. If He chose the path of poverty, His followers must choose the same path. If He was rich, we could at least justify our Western Materialism and wealth. From the following Scriptural evidence, we will learn that Jesus was not poor or rich. Yet, we see that He came to make Himself poor to relate to our humanity and to serve us adequately. Which indicates He held an inherent wealth that makes others rich. This is the balance of a healthy life, whether you are economically poor or rich.

“…who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” (Phil. 2:6). 

Jesus’ Economic Position

Although Jesus was born in a stable (there was “no room” anywhere else), the stargazers (“wise men”), who arrived two years later, visited Jesus in a house with expensive gifts as they had access to wealth (Matt. 2:11). “Gold, frankincense and myrrh” are gifts that befit a king (Ps. 72:10; Isa. 49: 7; 60:5–6). Jesus’ parents may have used these treasures to frugally finance their time in Egypt, and to establish their business as carpenters. Either way, Jesus was not dirt poor.

At Jesus’ circumcision, His parents sacrificed two young pigeons. “Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord  (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24). According to the law, it was the payment of someone who could not afford a lamb. “Then he shall offer it before the Lord, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female. And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.” (Lev. 12:7-8).

Jesus’ parents were therefore too poor at the time to sacrifice a lamb. But, the fact that Joseph and Mary, when Jesus was 12 years old, were able to travel to the temple for the Passover means that they were not so poor, because the poorest of the poor would not be able to afford the trip (Luke 2:41-51; Ex. 23:17).

Family Business: Joseph the carpenter, (or better translated: “craftsman or artisan”), indicates a middle-class existence – he had enough work (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). Jesus, as the eldest son would then have taken over the work from His father. Nazareth was a poor agricultural community just five kilometres outside the prominent city of Sepphoris. Work would therefore have been plentiful, even though excavations at Nazareth indicate material poverty.

Financial Support: During Jesus’ ministry we see that Jesus was supported by His followers: “…and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” (Luke 8:3b). “…who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.” (Mark 15:41). 

Nomadic & Settled Living: He preached in a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. It is also uncertain whether Jesus had a home of His own. “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matt. 8:20). He however, did have a home (John 1:39) as later, Jesus moved to Capernaum: “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali.” (Matt. 4:13). The word “Katoikeo” is translated “dwelt”, to settle, meaning to have a more permanent residence.

Relating To Tax & Currency: He raised enough money to appoint a treasurer (Judas) over it (John 12:6). But then there was not enough to pay His and Peter’s annual temple tax: “Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.” (Matt. 17:27). But, it could also be that they simply did not have the right currency – the tax had to be paid with Jewish coins on which, unlike Roman coins, no image of a man appeared. We know the common currency of the day was that with the emperor’s image on it (Matt. 22: 20-21; Mark 12:16; Luke 20:24).  Jesus chased the money-changers, who abused this law for their own gain, out of the temple (Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:14-15).

Wisdom of Influential Associations: Jesus was also comfortable with rich, prominent, and influential people, such as Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57), Zacchaeus (Luke 19: 2), Levi (Luke 5:29), and some of the Pharisees (Luke 5:29). 14: 1). He also had no problem eating with these people, even enjoying a feast (Luke 5: 29-32; 7: 36-39; 11:37; 14:1-2). Jesus also knows what the people say about Him and even refers to it: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” (Matt. 11:19).

Jesus was not ashamed to enjoy wealth. “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. (John 19:23). This underwear would have been valuable in that time. Jesus twice received the love gift of expensive perfume oil. Jesus allows the sinner to wash His feet and anoint them with perfume (Luke 7: 36-50), and later He allows Mary to pour expensive nard oil on Him (John 12: 1-11).

The bottom line is therefore:

Jesus learned to be content with shortages and with abundance.

Paul also understood this Jesus way of life: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ” (Phil. 4: 11-13). Paul sums up Jesus’ life very nicely: “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:10).

The error of the “Prosperity Gospel”

The idea that Jesus was a rich man, giving prosperity-theologians the right to live in prosperity, is not in line with the whole spirit of Scripture either. “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 become rich.” (2 Cor. 8: 9).

Jesus made people rich and had no need to amass wealth. He was wealthy! He is God! He had access to all things, yet made himself poor.

God’s Capital Riches is Christ within you if you are a born again believer. Godly character is an Eternal commodity we carry within us – the Bible calls it the fruit of the Spirit. When you meet someone wealthy their money carries weight and authority in this world, people seek to gain their favor, and they are reckoned as powerful and blessed. They get things done, and have entrance into VIP restricted areas of society. In the same way a Christlike Character and Activity brings favor.

Mother Theresa had no money when she started to look after the orphans, destitute, and Lepers in Kolkata, yet she addressed the united Nations in 1984. She was granted a state funeral by the Indian government in gratitude for her services to the poor of all religions in India. Her death was mourned in both secular and religious communities.

Jesus then seemingly being economically poor middle-class multiplied the loaves (Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14). Jesus healed and delivered hundreds of people (Acts 10:38). Jesus gives us eternal life!

A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes merry; But money answers everything.” (Eccl. 10:19).

“Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.” (Eccl. 5: 9).

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:10).

“They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:15).

The alure of wealth is deceptive, people begin to love the profit they make, and the wealth the accumilate. Jesus’ perspective is: One should be fruitful, multiply, and practimatically gain profit to be able to give more, and love more.

Jesus Perspective on Wealth

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus – Luke 16: 19-31: Although the rich Lazarus found himself in the “bosom of Abraham” and opens his eyes in the realm of the dead, it is not a matter of wealth versus poverty, but that as a result of his riches, he did not turn his life to God. Wealth can therefore be an obstacle in people’s lives because they think they do not need God.

There is nothing wrong with wealth, but like anything in life, every privilege comes at a price. God does not have a problem with rich people. Several prominent figures in the Bible were rich:

• Abraham: Gen. 13: 2

• Isaac: Gen. 26:12

• Jacob: Gen. 27:28; 30:43; 35:11

• Solomon: 1 Ki. 10:23; 2 Chron. 9:22

• Hezekiah: 2 Kings 20:13; 2 Chron. 32: 27-29

• Joseph of Arimathea: Matt. 27: 57-60

• Zacchaeus: Luke 19: 1-10

• Matthew: Matt. 9: 9-10

Warning To the Rich

Wealth is earthly and temporary; it cannot buy eternity.

Parable of the rich fool: “Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12: 13-21).

Wealth – a Potential Obstancical towards Obedience: The rich young man could not carry out the Lord’s command – which He gives with love in His eyes. He asks him to sell everything He owns and to follow Him but his riches kept him from it. Wealth is there to bless others, but it can become an obstacle to obey the Lord. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19: 22-24).

It is also the case that poor people more easily obey the Lord and go do what the Lord asks. Rich people are usually too busy to increase their wealth or try to retain it.

Wealth gives more worries. “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19). Financially riches does buy you comfort, but it also comes with more responsibilities.

Wealth provides false security: Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:17).

Watch out for how you acquire wealth and prosperity. “As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, so is he who gets riches, but not by right; it will leave him in the midst of his days, and at his end he will be a fool.” (Jer. 17:11).

Command To The Rich

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:17). 

“but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.”  (James 1:10-11).

Some Biblical Perspectives on Poverty

Aid amplifies ‘god’ complexes and strengthens inferiority complexes. “Who are the poor?” The Christ-centred perspective is: 

•          Poor relationship with God – Poverty of Intimacy

•          Poor relationship with myself – Poverty of Being

•          Poor relationship with family – Poverty of Trust

•          Poor relationship with community – Poverty of Security

•          Poor relationship with Creation- Poverty of Stewardship 

Thus, all mankind is considered poor, and in need of healthy relationships.

We will always have the financially poor with us, but according to the Bible, poor people have something to teach us about life. Many rich people who begin to serve the poor, will confess that the poor had a much greater impact on their lives than they on the poor.

“For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.” (Deut. 15:11). “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (Matt. 26:11; Mark 14: 7; John 12: 8).

The scripture negates the premise of the prosperity gospel, that wealth is a result of God favour that you claim by faith. “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.” (1 Sam. 2: 7). What then if God commissioned you to a life of economic poverty to minister and relate to the poor?

“Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” (Prov. 31: 7). This scripture is hard to interpret, but alcohol abuse is more common among the poor. Poor people tend to live for today’s survival.

“There must be no poor people among you because God is going to bless you lavishly in this land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, your very own land. But only if you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, diligently observing every commandment that I command you today. Oh yes—God, your God, will bless you just as he promised. You will lend to many nations but won’t borrow from any; you’ll rule over many nations but none will rule over you.” (Deut. 15: 4 The Message Translation) The ultimate test of any religion, ideology or worldview is the benefits it ultimately brings to the poor, the marginalized and oppressed.  If we say we are Christians, we have to take poverty seriously.

“Then I said: “Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.” (Eccl. 9:16). Whether we like it or not, most people gain influence and success by looking like they are successful, particularly following the young influencers on Instagram, who would fake their success to draw more followers and likes. [1]Footnote But it the ones who are rich towards God as explained in the abovementioned 5 types of poverties, that truly have the greatest lasting influence on people. Many writers, poets, thinkers and founding fathers to a generation is not the most financially extravangant millionariars but people who have become rich in character towards God, themselves, their family, community and the natural world around them.

Jesus enabled Jubilee

When the Holy Spirit is poured out, and people’s DNA changed, the Lord enabled the early christians to truly apply Jubilee, from the heart. “Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold.” (Acts 4:34). Jubilee was the Jewish declaration of war to never duplicate the inhumane system of the Egyptian pharaoh. It describes their battle of social justice for their people to keep them liberated, where each citizen remains the brother of the other, ensuring the future of the common whole. Remember, the poor person I ignore today can become tomorrow’s thief. When I purchase property that is returned after 49 years and I write off debtors after 7 years, I continue to remain in contact with my debtors to ensure they can make good on their promise in the given time. In so doing, society will not fall victim to accumulative debt. (Deut 15:1-5) The Jubilee created a society of givers, where greed-based capitalism created a society of debtors.  [2]Footnote

You Will Become Poor when…

My friend Hennie Viljoen, the founder and visionary Leader of Amos Agrimin will say that according to proverbs true poverty is a man made problem: Greed and Laziness.

“Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, but he who regards a rebuke will be honored.” (Prov. 13:18).

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity (foolishness) will have poverty enough!.” (Prov. 28:19).

“In all labor there is profit, But idle chatter leads only to poverty.” (Prov. 14:23)

“For Tyre built herself a tower, heaped up silver like the dust, and gold like the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will cast her out; He will destroy her power in the sea, and she will be devoured by fire.” (Zech. 9:3-4).

“and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.” (Mark 5:26)

“But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.” (Luke 15:14)

Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.” (Prov. 20:13)

“He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” (Prov. 10: 4)

“He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” (Prov. 21:17)

“For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.” (Prov. 23:21).

Blessing To Help The Poor

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” (Prov. 19:17).

“He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.” (Prov. 14:21).

“He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses.” (Prov. 28:27).

“One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion gathers it for him who will pity the poor.” (Prov. 28: 8).

Poverty Mentality

  • Poverty Mentality lives on today, but wealth leaves a legacy.
  • Poverty Mentality finds a problem in every opportunity, while prosperity seeks an opportunity in every problem.
  • Poverty Mentality feels right, while wealth feels empowered.
  • Poverty Mentality fears the future, but wealth makes history.
  • Poverty Mentality blames others for his condition, but prosperity takes responsibility for things that are not his fault.
  • Poverty Mentality asks: “What are you going to do for me?” Wealth asks, “Who is worth my investment?”
  • Poverty Mentality is associated with other dissatisfied species that validate his accusations, but wealth surrounds him with other powerful influencers.
  • Poverty Mentality votes for candidates who will increase his rights, while wealth officials choose officials who will offer today’s convenience for tomorrow’s children.

Rich-In-God People Mentality

Rich PeopleRich-In-God People
Identity is from the things they own: their houses, cars, yachts, money, etc.Identity comes from who they are, not what they own.
Spend a lot of time not losing their money, or they are wasting it on themselves.Money is just an expression of who they are, so they are confident in His well-being within.
Work for moneyMoney works for them.
Think of their assetsDream of their legacy.
Invest in people with the expectation of a return on their investment, measured by a predetermined outcome. Examples of this are a changed life, a transformed neighborhood, a business profit, etc.Give to people
Think their money protects them; they feel they are above the law. Solomon put it this way: “The riches of a rich man are his strong city and like a high wall in his own imagination.” (Prov. 18:11).Inherently humble because they are grateful because they know that the source of their provision is the Lord.  
Have a vision for the things they can buyHave a vision for the legacy they leave behind
Compete for moneyCompelled by God’s destiny.
Step on others to move upMeasure success by the people who help them.
Business goal is to make moneyProfession yields profit as the fruit that serves for the good of others [1]

[1] Vallotton, K. (n.d.). Poverty, riches & wealth.


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