Was Jesus Rich? And, the "Wealth" of the Vatican

Bible Christian Society


Was Jesus Rich?  Is the Vatican Wealthy?



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General Comments

Hey folks,

A few things:

1) I heard from a lot of people in response to the Catholic heathcare sharing information I sent out the other day about Solidarity Healthshare.  Obviously a lot of interest in something like this.  Like I said, it's simply an option that I wanted to put out there for folks to look at - an option that I wish I had several years ago.  If you didn't see it the first time around, you can find out more information about it here: http://www.solidarityhealthshare.org/

2) Please keep in prayer the filming that EWTN will be doing in a couple of weeks to try and finish up the skits for the next several episodes in my Blue Collar Apologetics series.  I'm hoping they can get those done quickly and maybe get the new episodes on the air early in 2017.

3) YouTube series - Questions Protestants Can't Answer #23: Where in the Bible is the list of essential vs. non-essential doctrines? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APmz4UpPclI



Was Jesus rich?  Is material wealth part of the plan of Jesus for His followers?  Is the Vatican wealthy?  I received an email from a reader about something he had heard from a couple of different Evangelicals along these lines - although I would more properly classify them as "health and wealth" gospel folks - so I thought I would respond.



Hi John,

I follow your newsletter and had a question that I've encountered on two occasions. Both were from "born again" evangelicals. The premise is that Christ was "rich" as in worldly possessions. They claim that even one of the disciples carried the money bags for Jesus. Further, Peter owned a fishing company. 

Many of this seems contradictory to my study of the Word and to many of Jesus's teachings. They claim that Jesus, on the cross, was not only Sin, but poverty. So they say that growing in Christ, as you accept Him more, will not only make you spiritually wealthy, but also financially. 

I never looked into this as my study seem to point the opposite direction as His message seem to be about ignoring worldly riches. I figure you may have some insight on this?

As a Catholic, it is hard for me to ignore that The Church has amassed quite a fortune in its nearly 2000 years of existence. Is one of the promises of Christ, to be rich? I know St. Francis of Assisi gave up his wealth. In order to serve.  More rationalization to keep their preacher/minister rich? 

I thank you in advance for an input you may have as I know your time is limited.

Warmest Regards,





       What these guys were trying to feed you is a load of garbage. First of all, you need to realize that everything they said to you is simply their fallible, non-authoritative, man-made, private interpretation of Scripture.  And their private fallible interpretation carries no weight whatsoever.  Should you run across these folks again, ask them this question: Is your interpretation of Scripture infallible?  And immediately follow-up that question with: And by what binding authority do you try and impose your interpretion of the Scriptures on me? 

       The answer is, no, their interpretation is not infallible and they do not have any authority over you, or anyone else for that matter, by which to bind you to their fallible interpretation of the Bible.  So, all you really have to say to them is, "Sorry, but I disagree with your fallible, man-made, private interpretation of Scripture."

       You could, however, also point out to them that nowhere does the Bible describe Jesus as being rich in terms of possessions.  In fact, it indicates quite the opposite.  First, we see that the offering that Mary and Joseph make when they take the baby Jesus to Jerusalem (Luke 2:24), is the offering prescribed in the Old Testament for the poor (Lev 12:8).  So, Jesus did not come from a wealthy family. 

       Also, the Bible seems to indicate that Jesus had no possessions.  Luke 9:58, "And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  Well, if Jesus was rich, and owned property, then He did indeed have a place to lay His head.  Furthermore, what does He tell His disciples when He sends them out to preach?  Does He say, "Here, each of you take a bag of gold coins and go out to preach to the towns and villages, and make sure to buy everyone a good meal?"  No, He tells them to "Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals."  And He further told them to remain in one house in whatever town they go to and to eat and drink "whatever they provide."  He never said, "Find the best hotel and eat at the finest restaurants." 

       When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the five thousand, what did they say?  "No problem, Jesus, we'll go get some food and bring it back in a bit?"  No, they said, "Shall we go and buy two hundered denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?" (Mark 6:37).  In other words, they didn't have that kind of cash.  And when Jesus asked them what they did have in the way of food, they replied that they had only five loaves and two fish among them. 

       And why, if earthly riches were part of the reward for being a disciple of Jesus, did Jesus tell the rich young man to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and then to come follow Him (Matt 19:21-22)?  That makes no sense.  Jesus should have said, "C'mon, brother, we love having rich folks like you in our group."  Or, He should have said, "Sell all that you have and give it to Me."  Furthermore, Jesus tells His disciples that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven (Mark 10:25).  Does any of that sound like something a person who was preaching the gospel of material riches would say?  Has Joel Osteen ever told his flock that all they have to do to get that Mercedes they want is to sell everything they have and give it to the poor?

       And, let's not forget about the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds (Matt 13:1-9, 18-23).  A man sows seeds and some of the seeds land on the path, others on the rocky ground, others among the thorns, and then still other seed fell on good soil. Jesus tells us that the seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear the Word of God, but the cares of the world and the "delight in riches" choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful (Matt 13:22).  Exactly how does that fit in with a gospel of material wealth?  It doesn't. 

       Now, regarding the "money bags" that one of the disciples carried for Jesus.  Well, that disciple just so happens to have been Judas.  And Scripture tells us that Judas seemed to be more focused on the material things of this world than He was on the spiritual aspects of Jesus' ministry.  We see this especially in John 12:4-6.  So, yes, Judas carried a money box (John 12:6). 

       But, if these guys wish to model themselves after Judas, rather than Jesus or the other Apostles, tell them to go right ahead.  Besides, the money in the money box, in addition to being used to feed the poor (and Judas' materialism), was used to feed Jesus and all of His disciples.  After all, they gave up everything they had to follow him (Matt 19:27), including their jobs (Matt 4:20).  They needed to eat, didn't they?  Again, not a lifestyle that makes a whole lot of sense if Jesus is preaching a gospel of material riches in addition to spiritual riches.  So the money in the money box, which they undoubtedly received via donations from supporters, was not used to make Jesus or anyone else materially rich.  Anyone who wishes to interpret it that way is really stretching the bounds of credulity.

       And this thing about Peter owning a "fishing company."  Really?!  That's like saying Joseph owned a carpentry company.  Or that Matthew owned a tax accounting company.  There is no evidence from Scripture that Peter was some sort of rich, fishing industry entrepreneur, who employed 50 or more workers and therefore had to provide his employees with Obamacare.  But, even if he was, the Bible tells us that he gave it all up to follow Jesus (Matt 4:20; 19:27).

       Finally, in regard to your comment about the Church's "fortune" that it has amassed.  I have written on that before, so I will simply copy that response below.  This was written a few years back, but I would imagine that the numbers are still relatively close to how things are today. The link for that newsletter is here: http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/53-apologetics-for-the-masses-issue-49



The "Wealth" of the Vatican

"Contrary to popular impression, the Vatican is a spartan operation. Its annual operating budget is about $277 million. The University of Notre Dame’s annual operating budget, by comparison, is $700 million. The Vatican’s endowment is about $770 million. By contrast, the University of Notre Dame’s endowment is $3.1 billion. The Holy See is indeed in need of financial support from the Catholic world, and American Catholics usually supply about 25 percent of the annual operating budget.

What about the artwork—the Pietà, the Raphael frescoes, and so on? These treasures are literally priceless, but they appear on the Vatican books with a value of one euro. According to the [laws] of the Vatican City State, they may never be sold or borrowed against."

The “wealth” of the Vatican has accumulated over the centuries and is basically art work, historical documents, and buildings. The Vatican views these buildings, historical documents, and works of art as belonging to all peoples – they are merely under the care of the Vatican. They are not for sale because the Vatican doesn’t view them as its personal property to sell. Why not sell all the works of art in the Louvre? Or in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art? Why not sell the Mona Lisa to feed the poor? Why don’t museums sell off their Rembrandts and Van Goghs and Picassos to feed the poor?

"About 20 years ago, Peter Drucker, the management consultant, concluded that the three most efficient organizations in history were General Motors, the 19th-century Prussian Army, and the Catholic Church. He put the Church on his list because it manages to hold a worldwide organization together with an exceptionally small central headquarters. For the 1.1 billion Catholics, there are about 1,700 people working in the [Vatican]. As Drucker pointed out, if the same ratio were applied to our government in Washington, D.C., there would be 500 federal employees working in the capital, as opposed to roughly 500,000."

So, just give people the facts, and tell them not to believe the lies. By the way, if they are critical of the Vatican, are they also critical of the Temple of Solomon? By all accounts, the Temple of Solomon makes the Vatican look like the poor house. Should the Israelites not have built the Temple of Solomon? Should they have used all the resources that went into it to feed the poor instead?

Note: The first two paragraphs, and the next-to-last paragraph were taken in their entirety from an essay by John L. Allen, Jr., who is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and author of All the Pope’s Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks (2004). His essay is drawn from a talk, sponsored by the Church in the 21st Century Initiative, that he delivered in Gasson 100 (Boston College) on October 18.


Closing Comments

I hope all of you have a great week!



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Apologetics for the Masses