Poverty or Plenty

“Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.” – Proverbs 15:16 NLT

Jesus modeled this proverb during His ministry on earth. But what about His life before His ministry? We know very little about His earthly father, except that he raised Jesus in the small town of Nazareth, and we know that Joseph was a carpenter. We know that Joseph was an “upright” man, a righteous man (Matthew 1:18-25), who followed God’s instructions for his life. As a carpenter who was displaced from his home, and with a young wife and small child, Joseph took his family and traveled to Egypt. They lived there until the Judean king, Herod, died and they could return to Judea safely. We don’t know if Joseph was very poor, or middle class, or wealthy. I like to imagine that Joseph mentored his eldest, Jesus, in the art of carpentry, and that he took good care of his family. I imagine that he was a kind and loving husband and father; a good example for all of his children. I like to believe that Joseph lived out Proverbs 15:16, not necessarily wealthy but an adequate provider, and the religious leader of their home. I wonder if he was disappointed that Jesus didn’t take a wife and settle down to live in Nazareth and to work with him. We don’t know if he was alive during Jesus’s ministry, or present at His death on the cross, or His resurrection from the grave. We don’t read about these things in scripture, because the wealth or poverty of Jesus’s parents isn’t really relevant to the story of His ministry. His earthly father doesn’t have the importance, or the significance, that His heavenly Father does. We know where Jesus really came from, and His heavenly home would make any situation on earth look like poverty!

Jesus understood poverty in the earthly sense, too. During His three years of travel and ministry on earth, He stayed with wealthy people like Lazarus and his sisters, and He ate with Zacchaeus and other wealthy tax collectors. We don’t know, in fact, that He was poor and homeless during His ministry. He said “The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ ” – Luke 7:34 NLT

Does this mean He was wealthy? Poor? Homeless? We know He camped with His followers, and He performed miracles to feed the crowds who followed Him, rather than purchasing food for them. Does it matter? At times, He had plenty, and at times He experienced poverty. I understand that, too well. I have had plenty, shopping when and where I wanted, and going out to eat at nice resturants on a frequent basis. I have also experienced poverty and homelessness, staying with friends and also living in a vacant house for a time. Jesus knew what it was like, even though His real Father’s wealth exceeds anything we could possibly imagine. He reminds us:

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” – John 12:8 NLT

And then He also reminds us that we are blessed and loved by the Almighty LORD of the universe:

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT

He doesn’t promise to give us everything we want. He promises to provide for our needs. I am clinging to His promises today, not knowing how I will meet my financial obligations beyond today. Mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance…. no job and no financial cushion because I have used it to survive thus far. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! All I ask is for enough. Enough to survive and to live on. That’s it. Amen.

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