Question: "Was Jesus rich / wealthy?"
Answer: As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus is as rich as God is rich. Indeed, our Lord owns everything and possesses all power, authority, sovereignty, glory, honor, and majesty (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 1:1, 8:58, 10:30, 17:5; Colossians 1:15–18, 2:9–10; Hebrews 1:3). Yet during the time Jesus was here on earth, He willingly relinquished His eternal riches and most of the privileges of His deity. Becoming poor indeed, our Lord took on the nature of a lowly and humble servant (Zechariah 9:9; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6–8). And by the time our Savior endured the tortures of the cross for us, His earthly possessions amounted to no more than the clothes on His back that were divided up by the soldiers who crucified Him.
Sadly, however, there are many prosperity preachers today who would like you to believe that Jesus was rich while here on earth and that God wants nothing more than to lavish His children with an abundance of material blessings. After all, a rich Jesus would certainly make it easier for them to persuade their flock that God wants them to be rich, too. However, a materially rich Jesus Christ is utterly incompatible with biblical truth. Even a cursory examination of the Bible should dispel any notion of our Savior’s being wealthy in an earthly sense. During His public ministry, Christ and His disciples depended entirely on the hospitality of others as they ministered from town to town (Matthew 10:9–10). As Jesus told a would-be follower, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (Luke 9:58).
It is unfortunate, then, that this false teaching about Christ’s wealth and its concomitant “gospel of greed” has gained a foothold in churches today. As Solomon aptly taught, however, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), for we can see that Paul addressed similar matters in his own churches: “Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people” (Romans 16:17–18).
Paul’s terse commentary in his first letter to Timothy regarding those who think godliness is a means to financial gain captures the essence of Christ’s numerous teachings on the dangers that accompany a heart bent on the accumulation of earthly treasure: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9–10).
Indeed, the New Testament is filled with lessons where Jesus chides the rich and praises the poor. He taught us to “be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). And He taught us not to “store up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19–21). Our Lord, who knows the hearts of men, is aware of the deceitfulness of riches and what a considerable stumbling block wealth can be. The sentiment of Proverbs 30:9, which declares, “I may have too much and disown you and say ‘who is the LORD,’” reverberates through the entirety of God’s Word. Thus, it would be a strange paradox indeed—and one that would certainly dilute the gospel message—if Jesus Christ were a member of the rich class of people who, as He declared, would find it so difficult “to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).