Jesus wasn’t rich, although with his powers, he could have been the richest man on earth. Jesus said of himself, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Lk 9:58) Yet, Jesus was offered the entire world and the glory contained therein, if he but fall down on his knees and worship the Devil. (Mt 4:8-9) Jesus rejected this offer by saying, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” (Mt 4:10) If Jesus had given in to this temptation, he could have escaped the cross and all the suffering and shame.
Jesus by his own power could have sold his gifts and made trillions of dollars. Imagine, who wouldn’t give all that they owned just to have their loved ones back from the dead? Who wouldn’t give all that they had just to be cured from a dreadful disease? Yet, Jesus never once sold any of his powers in order to obtain a house, fancy clothes, adequate food or for money.
Jesus gave such heavenly powers to his apostles, and they too could have made trillions of dollars and even justified it. They were commanded to go into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature. They could have used the money to carry out the Lord’s commandment to them. Yet, they did not! Could they not have said that obtaining such money was an ends to a means? Could they not have said that performing miracles for money was what today they call, an “Expedient”? The answer was no. Why? Because Jesus gave his disciples a direct commandment to the contrary. Jesus commanded them, “…Preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. …Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” (Lk 9:2-5)
By the time Saul of Tarsus was converted and became the apostle Paul, Jesus had already died and arose from the dead and ascended back into heaven. Paul began by taking money from congregations, but later he refused such. (2 Cor 11:8) Yes, he said a preacher was worthy of his hire. (Lk 10:7) Yes, he said, Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:14) But then he concluded by saying this, “What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:18) It was something he repeated to the Thessalonians when he said, “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.” (2 Thess 3:7-9)
Jesus was our example to follow in sufferings. Notice the words of the apostle Peter, “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:20-23)
It’s impossible to share in the sufferings of Jesus and his apostles when we are living a lavish lifestyle. Christians were not called to become the world, but rather to be separate from the world, the called out. Preachers were warned against the love money. (1 Tim 6:3-10) Yes, money is a part of the world, but truly it is not needed in order to preach the gospel of Christ. Christians were commanded to give freely and willingly of their money, but never out of any necessity to preach the gospel or to help the needy. (2 Cor 9:6,7)
Preachers who preach the gospel and don’t need the money are not stealing from man, but from God. Even so, preachers who preach the gospel having little and are not compensated, the church is guilty of stealing from the servants of God. I don’t personally know of of too many gospel preachers who preach in order to get rich. Anyone who knows the lifestyle of a gospel preacher knows that if they preach the unadulterated gospel of Christ, they will only live a modest lifestyle at best. Yes, money can be a temptation for some preachers to preach what the people want to hear, as opposed to what they need and must hear. If one has the means to preach for no compensation, they will be more apt to preach the truth as it is, and not give in to fables and doctrines of men. (Tit 1:14) Preachers deserve to be paid a salary, but elders need to beware that the preachers they hire are not there for the love of money, but for the love of the truth. After all, preaching is not a career, but rather a commandment given to all faithful Christian men. (2 Tim 4:2-5)