The Scarcity of Money
The Bible gives minimal information about the Lord Jesus handling money simply because He had little. He was born into the Jewish royal family, the line of King David. And yet, at His birth, Mary “wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” (Luk 2:7 KJV). Had He been born during Solomon’s reign, He would have entered into immeasurable wealth. Instead, Christ the King was born to a working-class family, a humble carpenter and his young wife, who were 90 miles from home. Thus, they first laid Him in a feeding trough for animals rather than a crib or bed like everyone else.
After Jesus’ birth, Joseph, “the carpenter” (Mat 13:55), suspended his business in Nazareth and fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt. When they came back, Joseph returned to his trade, and he and Mary had at least six more children. If Joseph died young, Jesus would have assumed responsibility for His mother and six half-siblings. Later, people asked about Him, “Is not this the carpenter?” (Mar 6:3). Having a strong work ethic, He labored with wood and stone, providing “daily bread” for His family.
Once, Jesus told His disciples, “He who has a money bag, let him take it” (Luk 22:36). And yet, He never had one Himself. When He wanted an illustration of Caesar’s image on a coin, He did not pull one from a personal money bag. Instead, He said to others, “Show me a denarius” (Luk 20:24). He had no money then nor when soldiers crucified Him.
The Savior confirmed His minimal resources by telling a potential follower, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Mat 8:20). At His birth, “there was no room … in the inn” (Luk 2:7). Before His public ministry, He spent forty days and forty nights alone in the wilderness. Once, we are told that He “went out of the city [of Jerusalem] to Bethany, and He lodged there” (Mat 21:17 NKJV). We only read once of Him “asleep on a pillow,” a borrowed pillow on a boat (Mar 4:38). On another occasion, “He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luk 6:12 NKJV). His more customary practice when in Jerusalem was this: “At night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet” (Luk 21:37 NKJV). Luke’s grammar includes a plural (nights), a participle (going out), and an imperfect verb (was lodging).
Fashionable, expensive and eye-catching clothing existed in Jesus’ time. He even said, “They that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses” (Mat 11:8). And yet, Jesus never tried to express His “personal style” through His appearance. He wore ordinary clothes, including an outer tunic or cloak. Thus, a woman “touched the hem of his garment” (Mat 9:20), and in the upper room, Jesus “laid aside his [outer] garments” (Joh 13:4). His clothing was modest and appropriate on all occasions as He drew neither admiration nor criticism for His appearance. Only once were eyes drawn to His clothing, when “they put on him a purple robe” (Joh 19:2) and a crown of thorns. Surely it must have surprised the soldiers when they discovered that He was wearing an inner “tunic … without seam, woven from the top in one piece” (Joh 19:23). It was likely a hidden and valuable gift He had received.
The Lord Jesus lived with little money, but that did not reduce His joy or limit His spiritual success for God. What a lesson! Our world bombards us with the message that personal wealth, personal style and comfortable living are everyone’s right and goal. However, the poverty of Christ demonstrates that socio-economic standing and abundant financial resources are not necessary to be able to live for God and have peace in our hearts. The joy of the Lord should be our strength, not the balance in the bank.
Jesus paid taxes, and we should too. He famously taught, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mar 12:17 KJV). Even though He knew Caesar would use the money for unbiblical and selfish purposes, Christian citizens still must pay. One day, He had Peter catch a fish with a coin in its mouth to pay Jewish temple taxes. Later, Jesus saw a widow putting her offering into the temple coffers. Even though Jewish leaders would use the coins to finance His betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, He did not prevent or criticize these payments. We are to “pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed” (Rom 13:7 ESV). Misuse of funds is between the government and the Lord, to whom they are ultimately responsible.
Jesus taught, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on” (Mat 6:25 NKJV), and that we should pray, “Our Father … give us this day our daily bread” (Mat 6:9-11). Practicing what He preached, He trusted His Father to meet His needs. When it was God’s will that His Son should fast for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, there was no food. Much of God’s provision seemingly came through voluntary donations. For example, after His birth in Bethlehem, God provided for the move to Egypt through the gifts of gold from the wise men. Later in Galilee, Mary Magdalene and other women “ministered to him” (Mar 15:41).
Some people gave money, while others prepared food. Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and “she arose, and ministered unto them” (Mat 8:15). After Matthew trusted Christ, he “made him a great feast in his own house” (Luk 5:29), and Mary, Martha and Lazarus “made him a supper” (Joh 12:2) in Bethany.
The Savior lived in constant reliance upon His God, and yet “Judas had the moneybag” (Joh 13:29). While He and the disciples did not have 200 days’ worth of wages to buy bread for the 5,000 men plus women and children, they did have a bag with limited funds for future expenses. Wise Solomon advocated some reserve for future need when he wrote, “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it” (Pro 21:20 ESV). The Lord Jesus is our model, then, as He struck the perfect balance between complete dependence on God mixed with wise financial administration in light of basic and future need.