Poorer Than Poor

Was Jesus born into and did he live in poverty?

Although the gospels do not say that Jesus was born into poverty, I have heard and read it said and intimated at various times and in various places. Was he born into poverty?

If he was born today, and lived in the conditions he was born then, we probably would think of him as being born in poverty, but what we consider to be poverty now might have been thought relatively well off in Jesus’ time.

Poverty can be defined in various ways and has many aspects. In pure financial terms it was defined in 2015 by the world Bank as less than £1.28 ($1.90 or €1.74) per day to live on. For the purposes of this opinion and it is just that, an opinion, I do not claim it as fact, I define poor as having adequate resources to pay for needs but not wants, and I define poverty as having insufficient resources to meet needs. Jesus’ family were certainly not well off, poor even but in poverty? Maybe not.

We do not know if Mary had resources of her own. She might have had a dowry but from the accounts available to us, it seems unlikely. Nor do we know if Joseph had any money. He did however have a skill, a saleable skill that enabled him to make saleable items and earn a reasonable living to support his family. Joseph was a craftsman, a carpenter by trade which in time he would teach his son.

When the Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, to register in Caesar’s census, it is not suggested that the family was unable to pay for a room to stay in. They had to stay in a stable because all the rooms in town were full, because of the census.

The term “stable” might be generous here. Animal shelter might be a better description. Stable, as we then to think of it now, is kept clean and dry with just horses in. The ‘stable’ in Jesus’ time would probably have been cold, wet, draughty, smelly and dirty, with various kinds of animals. That Jesus was born in a stable would certainly give an impression of poverty, if not considered with the other available evidence.

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One thought on “Poorer Than Poor

  1. Pingback: Poorer Than Poor | Christians Anonymous

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