Jesus is born. We all know the story. What may not be clear is that apparently Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a sheep for the sacrifice. As allowed, they substituted the less expensive turtledoves or pigeons.
Why it matters: Those in better circumstances were commanded to bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, and a turtle-dove, or a young pigeon, for a sin-offering. It is evident, from the offering they made, that although Joseph and Mary were of the seed royal, they were in very lean circumstances.
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord [This passage specifically quotes from Leviticus 12:8], “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” —Luke 2:22-24
Here is the reference scripture.
When the days of her purification are completed, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb in its first year for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. He shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement on her behalf; then she shall be clean from her flow of blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, male or female. If she cannot afford a sheep, she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf, and she shall be clean. —Leviticus 12:6-8
When Jesus speaks about poverty, He knows what He is talking about.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. | 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NASB)
Thus Jesus was born into a family that was part of the lower economic class. We see this material status has not changed 30 years later, during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus’ comments on his own economic status, such as when he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). The good news narratives bear out this testimony.
It appears that Jesus had very little by way of material possessions during his ministry. Consider the following: Jesus…
- preached from borrowed boats,
- multiplied borrowed food,
- rode on a borrowed colt,
- and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
In fact, most of Jesus’ material needs, as well as those of his disciples, were apparently met by donations from a group of devoted women who accompanied him. In his good news book, Luke refers to “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for [Jesus and his disciples] out of their means” (Luke 8:2–3; see also Mark 15:40–41).
It is worth noting, however, that Jesus always had money to run “the ministry”.
- He had cash flow. In John 4:8 the disciples went into town to “buy food.”
- Jesus and the Twelve had a “money box” to buy food or give to the poor (John 12:6 and 13:29).
- They were financially supported by women who had been healed by Jesus. Six to eight are named in the crucifixion accounts, but Luke 8:3 says “many others” also contributed.
- The Roman soldiers at the crucifixion would not tear his seamlessly woven robe but cast lots for it—implying the robe was of high quality (John 19:23-24).
- Scripture is silent on Jesus living as an ascetic desert hermit, which was common in those days.
Jesus had a lot to say about the homeless, wealth, prosperity, poverty, riches, the poor, the needy and giving. Here is a compilation of everything I have found. It is worth reading this to get a sense of what Jesus thinks about wealth and what He requires of us.
Hint: our priority is not to be material wealth!
Let us always remember:
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:9–10).