Was the Messiah Rich?
There is a common teaching within the prosperity gospel movement, as well as in some evangelical circles, that has unfortunately made its way in to mainstream Christendom. It is the false teaching that Messiah was rich, as well as were His disciples.
Now, one may ask, "Why is this even an issue?" Well, first, of all, this is not what the Scriptures teach, and second, this type of teaching can lead one into self-deception, as well as self-righteousness. The majority of people who teach that Messiah was wealthy, do so in order to justify their lavish lifestyles, and self-righteousness. This is why (for some reason) it's important to many people that the Messiah has to be rich. However, this has nothing to do with Biblical teaching, and certainly does not promote the gospel. The problem with this teaching is that not only does Scripture not teach it, but it promotes prosperity over righteousness. In addition, the prosperity gospel is an exclusive message - it simply doesn't work for everyone. Whereas, the gospel of Messiah Yeshua, is an inclusive message (Rom 1:16). While, there may in fact be some who teach that Messiah was rich, simply because of a misinterpretation of the Scriptures, it is a misinterpretation nonetheless and does not agree with the totality of Scripture.
The final reason that this is an issue, is because, it violates Biblical Messianic Prophecy. That's right! This teaching actually violates Messianic Prophecy. The Scriptures are actually quite clear in regards to whether or not the Messiah was rich, and it is completely contrary to what the prosperity preachers teach. As a matter of fact, a rich and wealthy Messiah wouldn't qualify as the Messiah.
Now, don't misunderstand me, Messiah was definitely rich in His authority, glory, Divinity and Sovereignty (Col 2:9-10; Isaiah 9:6). But He wasn't wealthy according to earthly definition, and definitely not according to the wishes of the prosperity preachers that you see on television. By Messiah's own admission, He even told His disciples that He was in fact not rich - "But Yeshua said to him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" - Lk 9:58. However, the biggest indicator in regards to Messiah's wealth is found in the Hebrew Scriptures, commonly called the "Old Covenant" by Christians.
In the Book of Isaiah, the Prophet Isaiah delivers this prophecy concerning the coming Messiah -
"Then a shoot will come forth out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch will bear fruit out of His roots. The Ruach (Spirit) of Adonai will rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and insight, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Adonai. His delight will be in the fear of Adonai. He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor decide by what His ears hear. But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the poor of the land. He will strike the land with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt around His loins, and faithfulness the belt around His waist" - Is 11:1-5.
By all accounts, this passage is considered a Messianic passage, by both Jewish and Christian scholars. In other words, this passage speaks directly about the coming Messiah. In the opening verse of this passage, Isaiah identifies the coming Messiah as "a Shoot" that will come forth out of the "stem of Jesse." In some translations, it says, the "stump of Jess." Why is the Messiah identified as coming from Jesse, and not David, the son of Jesse? Did Isaiah get this wrong? Don't the Scriptures identify the Messiah as "The Son of David?" Did not Adonai Himself, promise David that the Messiah will come from his line, and not from the line of Jesse (I Kings 2:4)? Then why is Messiah identified as the "Shoot" coming from the "stem of Jesse?"
First and foremost, this prophecy, says that the Messiah will definitely come from the House of David. In other words, He will be a descendent of King David. However, this prophecy also says that the Messiah would come at a time when the House of David is reduced to poverty - meaning, that the Messiah would come by way of humble means, from an impoverished family. The Messiah would not be born under royal circumstances nor, will He possess earthly riches. The Prophet Amos, reiterates this when he wrote, “In that day I will raise up David’s fallen sukkah (tent). I will restore its breaches, raise up its ruins,and rebuild it as in days of old" - Amos 9:11. This to mean that a certain point in time, David's House will be reduced to poverty. The House of David, will not have the stature that it once possess. The Messiah will come and restore it both spiritually and physically, to the grander that it once held.
The prophecy of Isaiah in chapter 11, is a continuation of an earlier prophecy given where he said, "Though a tenth still be in it, it will again be burned. As a terebinth tree or as an oak whose stump remains when cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump" - Is 6:13.
This prophecy is saying, that after 70 years in Babylon a tenth of Israel would return from exile. Those who have returned would be subject again to chastisement (they will be burned), but not completely eradicated. Israel would then sprout like an terebinth and an oak tree. Yet, the Holy Seed (David's Descendant, the Messiah) will be the stump. In other words, the House of David will not be completed destroyed, but only brought down to a state of poverty - this also means that the descendants of King David will also be in poverty. When this happens, the Messiah will come.
In the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant), we see that both Joseph (Yeshua's earthly father) and Miriam (His Mother) are both descendants of King David (Mt 1:1-17, Lk 3:23-38). It is quite clear that these two (Joseph and Miriam) were not among the wealthy, even though they were descendants of King David. After the exile in Babylon, the majority of descendants from King David lived in poverty.
One of the best indicators revealing this fact is found in the Book of Luke chapter 2, when after Miriam fulfilled her days of purification (according to Torah), she and Joseph brought Yeshua to the Temple to offer their sacrifices, as was commanded in the Torah:
"And when the days of their purification were fulfilled, according to the Torah of Moses, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present to Adonai. As it is written in the Torah of Adonai, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to Adonai.” So they offered a sacrifice according to what was said in the Torah of Adonai: “a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons" - Lk 2:22-24.
The indication of their economic status is revealed in the sacrifices that Joseph and Miriam offered at the Temple - "a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons." According to laws of purification found in Leviticus chapter 12, the sacrifice for poor people was "two turtle doves or a two young pigeons." As it is written, "If she cannot afford a lamb, then she is to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. Then the kohen will make atonement for her, and she will be clean" - Lev 12:8. The sacrifice for a wealthier person was "a year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove" (Lev 12:6). Because of their sacrifices that they brought to the Temple, it reveals that both Joseph and Miriam were not wealthy nor, were they among the wealthy. They were not even among what would be considered "middle-class." They were in fact poor, very poor.
Yet, one might say, "What about the gifts from the Magi - the frankincense, gold and myrrh?" Didn't these provide some kind of wealth for them? Not at this time. The Magi didn't show up until approximately two years after the birth of Yeshua. These gifts may have indeed, provided some economic relief for the young royal family, but they were more than likely used to finance their trip to Egypt when they fled from Herod (Mt 2:13-19).
Prosperity teachers and their disciples are quick to point that although, this may have been the case with Joseph and Miriam, Yeshua Himself grew up to be quite wealthy, so wealthy in fact, that He had a treasurer (Judas, Jn 12:6), He wore a seamless tunic (Jn 19:23), and the roman soldiers fought over His garments (Jn 19:24). Unfortunately, these arguments really don't prove anything. Prosperity teachers and their disciples use them only to justify their lifestyles. They don't prove their point at all. As a matter of fact they prove just the opposite.
Although, Messiah may have indeed had a treasurer (Judas), it wasn't because Yeshua and His disciples were wealthy. Many organizations have treasurers, and many rabbis also have treasurers, but this doesn't mean their wealthy. Far from it, in fact. In most cases, even today, many rabbis and Jewish organizations aren't wealthy - they depend solely on donations, just as Yeshua and His disciples did. However, they didn't have all of the fringe benefits that these prosperity teachers have today, like the million dollar mansions, or the private jets. In fact, Messiah Himself said, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" - Mt 8:20. Messiah Himself admitted, that He in fact didn't have a permanent place of residence - this does not mean that He had many places, like the prosperity preachers teach. Messiah in fact, had "nowhere" to lay His head -nowhere!
Side note: Could the reference to "foxes" have been an early prophecy in regards to these prosperity preachers, since they are in fact foxes?" (Just a side note).
In regards to Messiah's clothing, being seamless - this doesn't mean that He wore the finest of robes or tunics. In fact, the most impoverished Jew wore seamless robes made from one piece of material - "woven top to bottom in one piece" (Jn 19:23). This is because it was commanded in Torah:
"You are not to wear a woven mixture, wool and linen together" - Deut 22:11.
“You must keep My statutes. You are not to crossbreed different kinds of animals. You are not to sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor are you to wear a garment woven of two kinds of material" - Lev 19:19.
The Roman soldiers were simply casting lots over a Jewish made fabric, that was made from one woven piece, which was more than likely linen. This did not mean that it was seamless, to indicate wealth, but simply that it was seamless, because it was woven from one single piece of material, as commanded in the Torah. Messiah Yeshua was a Jewish man, following the commandments of the Torah, because He too, (like all Jews) was born under the Law of Moses. Therefore, He followed what was commanded for the Jewish people, as well. This included the food that He ate, and the garments that He wore - "But when the fullness of time came, God sent out His Son, born of a woman and born under law" - Gal 4:4.
In addition, a cursory review of history reveals that very often, Roman soldiers were not paid much, and it was quite common to collect the usable clothing of their prisoners, and victims. It just so happened that there was more than one Roman soldier guarding Yeshua that day (Who was there in place of Barabbas the murderer). Therefore, instead of there being one guard, who could've claimed the seamless garment for himself, there were two or more, who had to cast lots for the garment - "So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be" - Jn 19:24a.
The majority of the time, there was usually one guard for every prisoner who was being taken to be crucified. However, Messiah took the place of a murderer (Barabbas) and therefore, there was more than likely two or more guards. It is highly possible that the Roman soldiers escorting Yeshua, didn't even fully realize who He was - all they knew is that they were escorting a murderer. Yet, this incident of the soldiers casting lots for His garments was a direct fulfillment of prophecy. This is completely amazing! If it hadn't gone this way, then the prophecy spoken of by King David in Psalm 22, wouldn't have been fulfilled, and Yeshua wouldn't have qualified as the Messiah:
So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be.” This was so the Scripture would be fulfilled, “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things" - Jn 19:24.
"They divide my clothes among them, and cast lots for my garment" - Ps 22:19.
The teaching of Messiah being wealthy, is not entirely a false teaching per se. Messiah is in fact G-D in the flesh. Therefore, He owns everything. However, the Scriptures do not teach, that while He was here upon the earth in human form, was he wealthy. This prosperity teaching, is contrary to Scripture, and goes against Messianic Prophecy.
Messiah's life and death upon this earth was prophetically fulfilling in regards to regards to our redemption and salvation. Therefore, He had to accomplish certain things in order to qualify as the Messiah, and being rich wasn't one of them.
As it is written, "Who, though existing in the form of G-D, did not consider being equal to G-D a thing to be grasped. But He emptied Himself - taking on the form of a slave, becoming the likeness of men and being found in the appearance as a man. He humbled Himself - becoming obedient to the point of death even death on a Tree" - Phil 2:6-8.