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Jesus was not poor, so why does the Church say He was?

Published on
29 Mar, 2024
Nigel Maine - Founder
Nigel Maine
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When discussing if Jesus’ was poor prior to and during his ministry, the immediate response I have received over the past five years is as follows:

The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no where to lay his head - Matthew 8:20

I came across the information below which seems to make complete sense; however, I am confused as to why so many Church leaders quote the same Scripture yet view it completely differently than below?

The following article was written by Brother J. Leland Earls 1923-1991

In Matt. 8:19-20 we read these words: "A certain scribe came, and said to him, ‘Master, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus says to him, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no where to lay his head."

How ridiculous to think that the very incarnate Lord of Glory was talking only about not having a place to live or sleep while walking this earth. This was certainly true. He had no place He could call His own, but we must constantly keep in mind that "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy." (Rev. 19:10).

Therefore every word which He spoke can be distilled into prophetic patterns to show truths for future ages and generations. Think not that Jesus wasted His time just talking about the physical conditions in which He found Himself. He was using these incidents and circumstances to portray something far more vast and important than that which first meets the eye. Let us look and BEHOLD the footprints of the majestic Son of God.

In Matt. 8:16 we notice that it says when evening was come "They brought to him many that were possessed with devils; and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick." WHY does it mention that this occurred in the evening? Just to fill in space?

Is it not to show that Jesus was picturing things that would happen at the close (evening) of this age when His Body would be ministering in power and doing the works that He did? In verse 18, we read that Jesus gave commandment to the disciples to "depart to the other side." Even so is the Body of Christ to depart to the other side (heaven) after finishing the work that has been given to it for this end time.

It is in THIS SETTING that we have the words of the scripture with which we begin. It was a certain scribe who said to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go." The scribes were the scholars and teachers of that day, comparable to the theologians and ministers of our day.

Foxes have holes…or lairs!

Thus we see portrayed in this end time those who are asking what is required to follow the Lord all the way. In Jesus' cryptic answer is couched the enigma that He saw would prevail in this end time. WHAT did He see? "The foxes have holes," said He. In Ezekiel 13:4 we read: "O Israel, your prophets are like the foxes in the deserts." Also in Luke 13:32 Jesus refers to Herod as "that fox." Thus we see that Jesus was re¬ferring to certain kinds of humans when He used the term "fox."

If you will read Ezekiel 13 you will see that the Lord was re¬buking the prophets of Israel because they were speaking out of their own hearts and following their own foolish spirits. Of them He says, "You have not gone up into the gaps (breaches), neither made up the hedge (wall) for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord." (Ezek. 13:5). Thus he is describing a type of religious leader or preacher that is interested only in his own ways and seeking to promote that which serves his own interests. "The foxes have holes (lairs)," said He.

The LAIRS are the modern denominational systems which have become the holds and strongholds of those who, like foxes, have made a place for themselves to "lie down" in to promote their own welfare and security. And with them they hold captive the people of God to the traditions and customs of their particular approach to God. These, in turn, are not willing to follow the Lord to the point where their pri¬mary concern is not where THEY are going to find a "lair for security," but rather in finding a place for the LORD to lay His head.

The above is not meant to be an indictment against the many sincere and conscientious ministers who are doing the best they know how with the understanding they have. But it is an apt description of the religious systems and the many who know what the score is, but who refuse to "forsake all" to follow Him.

{NM Comment} The scribe says to Jesus in Matt 8:19 “I will follow you” but Jesus knew in his heart what he believed and referenced the foxes as per Ezekiel 13, in other words Jesus was saying “no way José”. But later in Matt 8:21 one of His disciples says “Lord let me bury my father” and Jesus says no, follow me now. Jesus’ response to the scribe was not “don’t follow me I haven’t got anywhere to live because this is a poor man’s job and you might not like it!” and to the disciple it was “get your finger out and follow me now!”

Laying his head…

Jesus could have used some other term of expression to denote His lack of an abiding place on the earth. But again, every word was designed to portray truth. He does not in these days have a place to LAY HIS HEAD. The Bible teaches that the church is the BODY of Christ, and that He is the HEAD of the Body (Ephes. 1:22-23,4:15). "Laying down His head" de¬notes a place (or people) where His HEADship is the primary concern. In other words the Lord portrays that time when many scribes, teachers, etc. would come with feigned words about following Him all the way, and yet refuse to recognize HIS HEADSHIP OVER HIS CHURCH.

The Lord has no people in this day who are willing to let Him "lay His Head" down to where He is in complete charge of everything that is done in His Body, and where everything is directed by Him through the Holy Spirit. But NOW has the day dawned for this peo¬ple to come into being. The beginning stages are evident in many places.

Birds of the air…allegorical demons!

Jesus also said "the birds of the air have nests." He was picturing those conditions which would prevail in the end time when the religious systems would become like that described in Rev. 18:2, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is becoming the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." Thus every kind of religious "bird" can find a roost somewhere in the religious systems of today, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head; for His Headship is not welcomed or sought for by the religious leaders of today.

{NM Comment} Also in Mark 4:3 Jesus says “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” This illustrates that birds, i.e. the enemy/satan, will steal the Word of God.

Follow me now…

Immediately following the words we have just been deal¬ing with, we find in Matt. 8:21 that another disciple said to Jesus, "Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said to him. Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead." The Berkeley version renders this passage, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead."

Again Jesus was using a contemporary situation to portray a prophetic truth. When the disciple said that he wanted to go and bury his father, he did not mean that his father had already died. This was merely a way of saying, let me stay with my father and take care of him until he dies, and then I will follow you. Jesus said in effect, "Let the spiritually dead take care of their own, you follow me NOW."

Letting His words be the spirit of prophecy for our day we can see that there are those who say they want to follow the Lord, but first they want to remain with the spiritually dying denominations which have fathered them until they feel their usefulness there has been completed. But Jesus is saying, let the spiritually dead take care of the spiritually dying denominations, YOU FOLLOW ME. He wants us to leave that which is dying and forsake all to follow Him.


Arguing the Case

To put this in to context, when Isaiah and Peter talked about Jesus they said;

“Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” – Isaiah 53:4-5

And again the letters from Peter say “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24

There is no scripture that says Jesus was ever ill or sick as he healed everyone he could – as long as their unbelief didn’t stop Him! He was also extremely fit and healthy as he walked for hundreds of miles during his ministry. Therefore Isaiah 53:4 says “…he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases”, doesn’t actually mean that Jesus was physically ill before or during His ministry.

He bore our transgressions and iniquities, yet this doesn’t actually mean that Jesus sinned - we know Jesus was without sin.

The Staggering Exchange on the Cross

The above scriptures refer to the exchange on the Cross with Jesus being crucified. Whilst He walked the earth, He lived in divine health and experienced “Shalom” peace, having all sufficiency, wholeness. The “Peace” he gave us and left us was the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Jesus had everything he needed, financially, in health and in his relationships with those around him.

Jesus BECAME Poor!

The other common response to Jesus being poor is written by Paul; For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich – 2 Corinthians 8:9

The same must then apply to Scriptural illustrations as in 2 Corinthians 8:9 as per Isaiah 53, i.e. it doesn’t actually mean that Jesus was actually poor.

It is impossible to argue that the Bible says Jesus was poor except that he deliberately became poor (as a result of the same exchange on the Cross) so that we could become rich. That indicates that he wasn’t poor beforehand if he “became” poor.

God’s Favour on Jesus

When we read in Luke 2:40 “…God’s favour was on him.” Jesus was already full of wisdom as he held his own in the temple when he was 12 yrs old. “…The people were amazed at his questions and answers” Luke 2:47.

This indicates that he had to have learned from someone and certainly when Jesus started his ministry he could read and knew exactly where the Scripture was that referred to him in Isaiah! So we are not describing a peasant with a peasant’s upbringing. Jesus was then referred to as “Rabbi” by his followers. 

During his ministry Jesus could not have been poor, financially, as he needed an accountant. Feeding 4,000 and 5,000 was no problem and when it came to paying his and Peter’s taxes he could make the finances appear from a fish’s mouth, therefore whenever he needed actual money, it was available – as he is Jehovah Jireh after all. I cannot accept that Jesus was so poor he couldn’t afford his taxes.

Is the Church filling in the blanks?

Even his clothes were not that of a peasant worker and were valuable - and they drew lots for his clothing as it was a seamless garment woven from one piece top to bottom - John 19:23. John 18:24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfil what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.

I agree Jesus didn’t have any need for earthly riches when he began his ministry. However, there is no proof he lived a life of poverty or was poor, nor was he a peasant working on the land as he ran the family business and was described as a “Tekton” or an “Artificer” or a craftsman by Matthew.

Hebrew Inheritance

Seeing as Jesus’ “earthly” father Joseph was not spoken of after chapter 2 in the Book of Luke, and therefore assuming Joseph had died, Jesus would have become the head of the household, providing for the whole family, all nine or more. He would also have become head of the family business and he would have received his inheritance and double portion (the other sons would have received a single portion) as the first born son, according to Hebrew law.

In John 19:26-27, when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. Question: Is this because Jesus was crucified and the Romans took his house and property therefore Mary had to go and live with this disciple? What about Jesus’ brothers and sisters?

At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt 5:3). Not “blessed are the poverty stricken.” I am certain that when Jesus and the other writers in the Bible talk about poverty they mean financial issues?

Poverty is a Curse

We read that poverty is a curse, not a blessing; Deuteronomy 28:15 “But if you will not obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments and decrees, which I am commanding you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” The verse 15 to 64 explains all the curses and calamity that will befall us if we don’t follow God.

In essence, the curse of poverty should come upon all of us because all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But Galatians 3:13 tells us; Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— Again, this is the exchange that occurred on the Cross and that Jesus became a curse, not that he was a curse in the first place.

Jesus fulfilled the Law

We are taught that the Cross reflects back through the Old Testament and forward in to the New Testament. Jesus came to fulfil the laws not eradicate them.

Scripture tells us; “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today" – Deuteronomy 8:18

Jesus was without sin, therefore, during his life and ministry Jesus would have been subject to the blessings of God as illustrated in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God...”

Blood Bought Children of God

My view is that we are blood-bought children of The Most High God. We have been called to His kingdom for a reason. We are being trained and tested on this earth in preparation for something way beyond the scope of our intelligence or imagination, but we will find out what it is when we enter heaven. Therefore, when we are told “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:19 I believe it.

We are told seven times in the Book of John to ask God for whatever we need in the name of Jesus and he will give it. Is Jesus speaking of spiritual riches?

How can we quantify Luke 6:38 “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and ...”, If Jesus is not talking about physical and financial issues.

We are kings according to Revelation 1:6. We are to live in love and in peace and shall not want. We are to be thankful and content with everything we have and in everything pray and petition God.

An inconsistent message

I am struggling to correlate Jesus being poor with the Scriptures. I have been quoted Matthew 8:20 and 2 Corinthians 8:9 again and again and can’t match up what I am reading and researching against what I’m being told in Church.

In Matthew 8:19, the scribe asks about following Jesus and it concludes in verse 22 with Jesus saying let the (spiritually) dead bury the (spiritually) dead. They were not having a discussion about finances or deciding on where to live or rent or buy a house because Jesus was short of cash and on his “uppers.”

Mapping Jesus’ poverty against Matt 8:20 is taking this Scripture is out of context and therefore confuses the listener.

There is more proof “for” than “against”

I also have a problem accepting that Jesus did not have a place to live because he was poor. Firstly he was a carpenter/builder and could have built his own house if he was so inclined.

The following Scriptures mention about Jesus “living” somewhere.

Matthew 4:13 NIV Leaving Nazareth, he went and (“dwelt” KJV, “made his home” NRSV) lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali, as prophesied in Isaiah 9.

After Jesus cast out the demons in to the herd of pigs in Gadarenes, which was on the east coast of the sea of Galilee or “the lake” it then reads in Matthew 9:1 “And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town.” This town was Capernaum as Nazareth was approx 30km inland from the Sea of Galilee.

Mark 1:29-31 tells us that Jesus, Simon (Peter) Andrew, James and John went to Simon’s mother-in-law’s house. It does not say he lived there.

Is there a Greek or other version that is specific about Jesus having a permanent residence at Peter’s in-law’s?

Mark 2:1 Continues to tell us that Jesus returned to Capernaum and it was “noised he was in the house – KJV” or “at home – NRSV.” Again, is there another Bible version that is more specific?

Perhaps he did not own another property after his family home in Nazareth and that perhaps he didn’t just stay overnight at Peter’s mother-in-law’s house in Capernaum, perhaps he and also stayed at Matthew’s house too.

It also makes sense to not enter into a rental agreement if you know you’re only going to be living on this earth for another three years! However we interpret the Bible, it shows that Jesus did live in Capernaum at a permanent residence. God provided! But there is not sufficient evidence to say he did not have a place to live based upon the assumption that he was poor!  

And whilst it also says that the women who followed him provided for him financially, I can't help believing that this impression we have been given or counjured up of Jesus being poor is simply man's attempt to put our earthly values on a person whom we can't fathom in order that it makes us feel better because we don't actually have faith to follow through.  

Half Full or Half Empty

I am definitely not seeing the same picture as those whom I have come in to contact within the Church. It makes me feel that I have acquired a distorted view of the Bible that, on the one hand makes me feel excited, connected and alive because of my views and research, versus the Church’s poverty view.

It also makes me think that believing this truth or argument it will not endear me to many other Christians who say Jesus was poor.

Is it then simply a tradition in the Church to say that Jesus was poor? The irony is that Ezekiel 13 is challenging the religious leaders because of their own agendas. It seems the same is true of some of our religious leaders and that they have been guilty of following tradition rather than Scripture by quoting “foxes have holes…” and following their own agenda that keeps people feeling sorry for the Church or perhaps applying a false humility to finances and believing that lack is somehow a holy existence.

Jesus preached about God’s provision to thousands. They would not have believed him if he was a pauper and down on his luck. He would not have been a very good walking advertisement! Jesus also told his seventy two disciples to “go” without any money and to find the man of peace in the village and to bless the house and stay there as long as they were welcome. Not only did this happen, but they were able to even cast out demons, much to the surprise of the disciples.

Throughout Jesus ministry there was never a hint of Jesus lacking for anything, God always provided.

God’s best for us

This mindset renders the Church and its congregations incapable of operating to the full extent to that which God expected it to. It boils down to encouraging and accepting a multitude of layers or filters that restrict or stop us receiving or living out God’s blessings to the full.

I believe God wants His best for us yet we have become complacent in distrusting certain Scriptures because it makes us feel better. It’s far easier to stay in lack than it is to believe and genuinely trust God for one’s provision. It means actually stepping out in faith, yet that is too scary for most people.

This overall view automatically infers that there is something grubby about money and anyone who successfully acquires it should somehow be ashamed – hence very few business people in Church.

The Prosperity Gospel – Boring!

I also appreciate the “hop-skip-jump” to labelling all this as the prosperity gospel which helps people feel comfortable to immediately dismiss anything to do with money and infer that there is something holy about being poor or living in poverty, even though it’s a curse.

1 Timothy 6:17 tells Church leaders to teach the wealthy about money. James 1:10 says the rich will disappear and in James 2 talks about partiality towards the wealthy. So it is quite clear we are being taught that the wealth of Christians needs to be managed.

God has always known that we have to use money on this earth, albeit created in Babylon by the enemy. As Christians we should have no problem acquiring it (at this point the story of the coins in the fishes mouth seems apt) but must not, under any circumstances, idolise it. I believe the Church is to help those who have acquired it to appropriate it wisely, for them and for the Church.

Against our spiritual development

By maintaining that Jesus was poor surely cannot help develop or enhance our spiritual wellbeing or belief in the supernatural. This mindset only serves to keep Christians in a place that poses no demands on themselves and depletes any expectation of God’s promises.

If believers accept that Jesus was poor, then they also have to accept that God doesn’t actually provide. And if god doesn’t actually provide for his own Son, how can we genuinely and honestly believe that he will provide for us. And if he doesn’t really provide then it’s not difficult to justify that he wouldn’t really heal us and the list of doubt gets longer and genuine faith ends up collapsing like a house of cards.

In short it stifles and restricts our faith and encourages people to accept another cup of tea and a biscuit and nothing more and “trust” doesn’t even figure. Trust becomes a word that is mentioned from the pulpit yet has no relevance – how can it if God doesn’t deliver on His promises?

Alluding to God’s greatness in an individuals’ life, for example on Facebook means nothing. Talking about specifics i.e. testimony, is uplifting and jaw-dropping. Being aware of Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” is one thing, but living by faith and trusting God in everything means that he will always show his grace and manifest the plans he has for us.

Without genuine trust, the Church becomes a social club with talk about some higher plane of existence. Humility translates to an acceptance of poverty and anyone who challenges it is slapped down with the same old rhetoric and unsupported verses. The old school wins again, and so does the enemy.

God’s Administration – The Church

The Church can’t have it both ways; on the one hand to sneer at money and promote an attitude of frugality and the sanctification of being poor and on the other-hand expect Church-wide tithing, alms, first-fruits and gifts to help develop and further the various Church directives.

The mechanism God created was that the necessary funds would flow through the administration of the Church and in turn all the essential and necessary activities of the Church would be adequately supported.

We also know that the wealthy people are predominately business owners, most of which don’t or won’t come to Church because they are made to feel “unholy” or second class. And the ones who do attend Church are “touched” more than anyone else for more donations.


I believe that the smallest seed of doubt is as potent as faith the size of a mustard seed. The Bible is so rock-solid in its purpose to uphold us and guide us and there are no “chinks in its armour.” Therefore, surely it must be beneficial to Christians to be reaffirmed in the knowledge that God really has got our backs and that we can afford be bold because to live is Christ, to die is gain.

In 2 Corinthians 9:8 NRSV we are told “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”

We are told to be Christ-like; if we are told he was poor then it also means we should not have any expectations that involve money and if we do acquire it, then again, the general consensus is that it is un-Christ-like. So no one wins!

Is the poverty mentality “just how it is”, have I misread too many Scriptures, am I just being cynical about Church or is this a tradition that should be changed?

2000 years after Jesus was on this earth, I have read the Scriptures and I am moved. But does my interpretation mean I’m wrong or does it mean that we’re all allowed to decide our own “take” on what Jesus wants for us?

Therefore, has the general consensus of saying that Jesus was actually poor served The Body of Christ (us!) or The Church and if so, how?

Thank you for reading this and I do hope that you will take the time to comment so that we can all be guided in this important matter.