Jesus Was No Stranger to a Life of Poverty

by Elli Atchison​

He was born in a cave to poor parents in the shepherding community of Bethlehem. As an infant, his family fled to Egypt as refugees, trying to escape a genocide of the maniacal ruler King Herod. Throughout his adult ministry he had no home of his own. In a conversation with a would be follower, Jesus made his humble lifestyle clear: ​"Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" ( Matt. 8:20). ​All his life, Jesus was truly reliant upon God to provide.

jesus poor

"Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda" (1883) by Carl Bloch. Photo of displaced Palestinian children by Juan Cole (www.juancole.com). (The juxtaposition of these images is inspired by an exhibit at the Palestinian Museum; learn more at http://www.palmuseum.org./exhibitions-news/news/in-the-presence-of-the-holy-see-project.)

So what would Jesus say to a woman living in Gaza today?​ As he walked through the streets, he would easily see that the city still lies in rubble since the war two years ago. Controlled borders limit access to the supplies desperately needed to rebuild. Many families are still displaced and living in crowded shelters, like refugees in their own city. Simple necessities like electricity and water are limited and rationed. But the feelings of sadness and despair are abundant in the hearts of these suffering people.

Children have nowhere safe to go and play in the streets. I imagine Jesus would be all too happy to stop for game of street ball with the kids (Matt. 19:14). Possibly the family of one of the children would invite him into their home for tea, as an expression of their culture's hospitality to a stranger.  There he might find a young widowed mother, living with her brother and his own large family. The small and humble house would be filled with extended family.

Jesus might take special interest in the widowed woman and politely encourage her to talk about her life. She would share a bit about the daily struggles to provide for her children since her husband was killed. Something about the kindness in Jesus' eyes would show her that he really cared. And somehow, simply talking about her burdens with this gentle man would make them seem less heavy in her heart (Matt. 11:28).

The conversation might turn to the outside world. Most of the residents can only dream of leaving the prison that Gaza has become. The woman would express her feelings of isolation and ask, "Does the world even care?"

I think Jesus would remind her of how precious she is to God. He would say, with love, that God does not forget even one sparrow, and she is worth so much more than sparrows to God (Luke 12:6).  If God provides food for birds, how much more will God provide for them? ​"Don't worry about what you will eat or what you will wear. Life is more about food and the body more than clothes (Luke 12: 22-23).  He would reassure her that God has counted every hair on her head and knows every detail of her life (Luke 12:7).

I think Jesus would explain that in the eyes of the world this beautiful family might be poor, but in God's eyes they are truly rich. Their earthly poverty requires a daily dependence on God that the wealthy people of world think they do not need. God promises that those who trust in him will be rewarded in heaven. Blessed are you who are now poor, hungry, sad and rejected now. Your reward will be in heaven if you keep your focus on God and your trust in him (Luke 6:20-23). He would remind the family to continue to store the treasures of their hearts with God in heaven, where they can never be stolen or destroyed (Matt. 6:20).  Then, he would quietly leave the home with a blessing of peace.

Dear Jesus,

You see the world in such a different way. Those who are needy for you are actually rich in the blessing of your presence.  Be with the suffering people of Gaza. They feel forgotten by the world. Show your love by providing for all of their needs, day by day. And help the outside world to remember their plight and to show your kindness through acts of charity and love.

In your holy name, Amen.

Elli Atchison is an ambassador for World Vision, working alongside the advocacy team to promote peace and justice in the Holy Land for all God's people, especially children. This Holy Week meditation originally appeared at Prayers for the Holy Land.

See all the parts of Atchison's "Jesus Was No Stranger To…" series.

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