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Why It Matters That Jesus Was Poor

Why It Matters That Jesus Was Poor

Think about some of the wealthiest people alive: the Musks, Zuckerbergs and Bezoses of the world. How do we tend to characterize them, beyond just being wealthy beyond imagination? Savvy. Innovative. Shrewd. Maybe even futuristic. A few other words might come to mind (not all of them nice) but most would agree that these successful people are at a minimum, comfortable and free from everyday financial worries. 

If you’re not rich — like, say, most of us — then you probably have also experienced, at some point, financial struggles and the stress associated with it. Worse yet, when your finances aren’t healthy, it can be easy to kick yourself, blaming your lack of financial flourishing on personal shortcomings. You might have even felt ashamed and isolated; like you’re the only one who couldn’t figure out this whole “money” thing. 

This is part of a monthly series produced in partnership with He Gets Us.

But if you’ve ever struggled to make ends meet now, or in the past, know this: You’re not alone. Even Jesus was born into poverty, and He struggled day-to-day to put food on His table.

The story of Jesus’ birth paints the picture of a family who didn’t have much. Mary and Joseph gave birth to Jesus in a city far from their home and laid Him in a manger – a feeding trough for animals. That night, the family was visited by shepherds – poor strangers whose social standing was often discriminated against by others in society.

Not soon after, the infant Jesus and His parents became refugees. They were forced to leave what little belongings they had behind when they fled to Egypt to avoid a government death squad that had been ordered to kill every infant boy in the region. 

Jesus’ childhood was one of financial poverty.

As Jesus grew up in the humble town of Nazareth, He was the son of a carpenter. He likely learned the family trade which would have given Him the opportunity to earn a decent living. But instead of pursuing the path that would have given him a worldly sense of financial security, He chose a different path.

Jesus began a ministry that sacrificed His own wants, needs and comfort to instead meet the needs of the people around Him. During this time, He didn’t have a permanent address, but rather He relied on the kindness of others for a place to sleep each night. He lived a life without a home base. 

As a teacher, Jesus had a lot to say about money. 

He taught His followers not to worry about where they were going to sleep, what they were going to wear, or where they’d be getting their next meal. Instead, Jesus told them to trust that God would provide for them. He showed them how to live a life of complete trust in God.

He warned the rich not to be obsessed with their wealth, but instead to focus their affections on God. Jesus even went as far as to tell them to sell all of their possessions so they could share what they had with those in need. He told them to follow Him in living a life of radical love.

He implored all people to seek spiritual wealth over worldly riches when He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus demonstrated where His treasure was, as He spent loving people and relying on God. He lived a life of spiritual wealth beyond imagination. 

Of course, none of this makes financial struggles feel easier in the moment, but it is a reminder that your financial struggles don’t define you. Jesus chose to spend the latter part of His life in poverty as a demonstration of radical trust in God and a radical love toward others. As a result, He spent His life in peace, knowing that His real investment was secure. 

No matter how much you may have struggled financially in the past, or are even struggling today, know that you are not alone.  

And when you encounter others who are struggling, think of it as an opportunity to rethink how you look at them, but maybe also to rethink how you might show up differently for them in love.

Jesus was not well-off like those we see in society today. Instead, He modeled a life of sacrifice to give us a new way of thinking about what real wealth and peace looks like — something you can’t buy with money.

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