Jesus was well-off. He had a lot of money. He didn’t live as if he had a lot of money, but he did have a lot of money. Judas Iscariot knew that only too well, because, as the gospel points out, Judas was in charge of the money (he “kept the bag”), kind of like a combined accountant/lawyer/administrator. He skimmed from it, too, because that was the kind of person he was. Of course, Jesus knew about the skimming but he let it happen anyway. Money didn’t mean much to Jesus; he had lots of it, but it was just a means to an end. He was able to rent houses or boats or banquet halls when he needed them; he was able to provide the daily needs for all his followers; and he dressed well.
I like that Jesus dressed well and this was noted in the gospels. In striving to be like Jesus, we should also dress well – not ostentatiously, but well. Our bodies are, after all, the temple of God’s spirit, so they should have the appropriate cloth coverings.
Jesus being well-off is not something that most people know about or, if they know, like to talk about. Think about this – everyone who followed Jesus had given up everything (left their jobs, sold their belongings) and given the proceeds to Jesus. Then, after Jesus’ death, the disciples carried on the same system – all of the money was collectively held by the disciples to look after the daily needs of the group as well as to dispense to the poor, as per Judaic tradition. There was a lot of money changing hands – enough to pay for food and lodging and daily needs and travel expenses for thousands of followers over the course of several years. This is not chump change we’re talking about here. The early church was rich from funds donated to it by new converts, some of whom were quite wealthy.
As Christianity evolved over the centuries, however, the notion of “poverty” somehow emerged as a true sign of Christian faith. Having excessive funds was considered a form of gluttony, so believers strove for penury. This was actually quite silly as well as being ascriptural; God in his Word never asked us to be poor. He reminds us not to focus on money or to dote on things that money can buy or to devote too much time to activities whose sole purpose is to make money, but he never tells us to be penniless and dependent on hand-outs.
In fact, being penniless and dependent on hand-outs is the exact opposite of what God wants for his people. Jesus even says that those who give everything up for his sake will be rewarded IN THIS LIFETIME AND IN THE NEXT with houses and land, etc. When he told the rich young ruler to sell what he had and give to the poor and follow him, the rich young ruler would have found out (had he done what Jesus advised him) that he would have gotten everything back, plus the priceless glory of God’s presence, to boot.
This is why it royally peeves me off when I see so-called Christians judging others by the amount of money they have. Scripture says that the LUST for money is the root of all evil, not that money is itself evil. Money is just a tool; believers who know how to use it well will be entrusted with more of it, while believers who are not so good with money will be given less. That’s God’s way of keeping us all on the straight and narrow.
I used to be not so good with money (which is odd, because I was taught how to handle money by my very straight-laced, by-the-book accountant parents), but as I get better and better with handling it, God is entrusting more and more of it with me. So, for instance, where I used to spend every last penny I had splurging on spur-of-the-moment vacations to the warm and sunny south, I now invest the same amount in covering future basic expenses by paying in advance to get a discount. This makes my money stretch farther and also takes away any potential worries about not having enough. I don’t let much of my money just sit there; I put it to work and spread it around and squeeze as much value out of it as I can. Then, from the excess, I can go south if I want to.
I’m also intensely grateful for the money that God entrusts in me. I’m grateful for the good food and nice clothes that it can buy. People are surprised when they find out that I’m a Christian because, as they put it, “You don’t look like a Christian!” I wear good quality clothes and even (gasp!) make-up. I care about what I look like because the image I project is the image people will judge me by. If I look poverty-stricken and plain, how am I glorifying God? If I look healthy, well-dressed and attractive, then God is glorified by my appearance, and when I open my mouth to speak God’s Word, people will listen, at first maybe only because they find me attractive, but hopefully later because they like what they hear, not only what they see.
We need to use everything at our disposal to preach God’s Word, including our money, our looks, and our fashion sense. They’ve been given to us to put to good use, so not to use them is squandering our God-given resources.
In Heaven, everyone is beautiful and well-dressed. Everyone is well-off. In God’s kingdom on Earth, we should strive to be as we’ll be in Heaven (if we make it), not by focusing on money but by using whatever God gives us to further God’s kingdom on Earth.
As my grandmother used to say: “The Good Lord provides.” If we’re willing to work and do a good job at what we’re tasked with, we will be rewarded, and handsomely. What kind of a father wouldn’t reward his children for their honest efforts, and give a bit more on top as a “special treat”?
God doesn’t want us poor and begging. He doesn’t want us dirty and in rags. He wants us in our Sunday best, inside and out, just like Jesus was.