Was Jesus Rich?
With a successful venture playing a prominent role in Jerusalem, Jesus was naturally trained in economics and business as much as he was philosophy and religion. As Christians we have to recognize that our savior was an entrepreneur before he was a teacher. Doing so is empowering and delivers a new perspective on scripture that enables us to understand God’s heart for the marketplace. This series seeks to establish a Biblical foundation for understanding Jesus the Entrepreneur.
One of the biggest challenges Christian entrepreneurs face is the temptation of wealth. Every marketplace Christian will tell you that at some point in their life they were overcome with the guilt of wealth. Meanwhile we hear people say the love of money is the root of all evil, not just money by itself. This is in fact true – there is nothing wrong with riches as long as your wealth doesn’t became an idol. However I can’t help but wonder, is there more to this story? How dangerous is the pursuit of wealth? Jesus was an entrepreneur – was he rich? Understanding the role of wealth and influence in Jesus’ ministry offers a unique perspective on God’s heart for the marketplace and our own pursuit of wealth.
Friend of Rich and Poor
Frankly speaking, we tend to view Jesus as a smelly bum. You know, like John the Baptist – somebody who is better fit for a homeless shelter than say, an executive board meeting. This isn’t necessarily true. The problem is we tend to confuse a humble appearance with a humble spirit. However dressing poor doesn’t make you humble any more than dressing fine makes you rich. We inaccurately assume that because Jesus was poor in spirit and humble that he dressed that way too.
We see throughout the New Testament that Jesus was a friend of the rich and poor. For now, I’m going to emphasize on his interactions with the rich. Consider a few of the following examples, which are just a small sample of an extensive list of encounters with the upper classes of society:
- Visited by Magi (wealthy professionals) as a toddler
- Guest of honor at parties hosted by rich people (Luke 11:37, 14:7, 19:5)
- Deluxe burial provided by Joseph or Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin – ancient Israel’s Supreme Court
- Ministry supported by independently wealthy women (Luke 8:3)
Jesus did in fact spend a considerable amount of time with the rich, which makes me wonder: would these people really be hanging out with Jesus if he was a stoic smelly bum? The answer has to be no. People were attracted to Jesus because he spoke with authority, healed the sick, and challenged even the greatest thinkers of their time. Yet no matter how engaging somebody is, they still have to be able to relate – both intellectually and physically. Jesus was an entrepreneur after all, so he knew how to dress, how to sell, and how to talk about commerce with the very people who ruled it. I bet he dressed for the occasion and fit in quite well. You wouldn’t go to dinner with Donald Trump wearing your pajamas, would you?
Yes, Jesus Was Rich
Jesus didn’t just hang out with the rich – he was rich. The interesting thing about scripture is that it hints that this is true, but really never goes out of its way to say so. Consider John 19:23-24 as one of those hints:
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did.
When the Bible says that his tunic was seamless, it is basically telling us that Jesus wore an Armani suit. A seamless tunic would have been an incredibly expensive and finely crafted garment that only the rich could afford. Furthermore, the fact that soldiers cast dice for Jesus’ belongings indicates that his belongings were valuable. There was enough of it to split between four people and enough demand that they actually gambled for it. This wouldn’t be the case of someone who was not wealthy.
In another scriptural instance, we learn of a story where Judas, the team treasurer, steals money undetected from Jesus (John 13:29). This is noteworthy because it indicates that there was enough money in the treasury for some to be taken and no one notice or care.
What does all this mean?
The evidence presented here is somewhat anecdotal; however my hope is that as you begin to see Jesus as an entrepreneur you begin to realize all the associations that come with entrepreneurial success. He was fully capable of interacting with the rich, and was rich himself, although still poor in spirit. What made Jesus truly amazing is that he was able to move between the rich and poor so seamlessly.