Was Jesus a homeless vagabond or a hippie, wandering around, without a place to live in?
Sadly, many have a totally wrong concept as to how Jesus Christ lived when He was here on earth. They might have read Scriptures saying that even though He was rich, He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9), not realizing that Paul is using a comparison between the richness of the immortal God who owns everything, and, in contrast, the poverty of man whose insignificant riches might be here today and gone tomorrow (compare Proverbs 23:4-5).
But Jesus Christ was by no means a vagabond or a hippy. Even though some claim, for instance, that He wore long hair, the Bible is very clear that He did not (compare 1 Corinthians 11:14). [For more information, please read our Q&A, Did Jesus Wear Long Hair?].
He was the son of a carpenter—Joseph—and as Jewish custom of the time dictated, He, as the firstborn, would have been taught in that occupation and He would have continued in it after Joseph’s death (Joseph might have died sometime after the episode of the twelve-year old Jesus in the temple, as he is not mentioned anymore afterwards in Scripture as still being alive).
The carpenter’s occupation included that of an architect, who would build houses. It is therefore very likely that Joseph built a house for himself and his family, and that Jesus, as the carpenter’s son, would also have been engaged in building houses. It was customary for sons and daughters to remain in their parents’ home until marriage, and as the firstborn son, He would have had the right and responsibility of inheriting the home and carrying on the family business that was operated from it. But it is also very likely that, as the firstborn son of a carpenter and having become a carpenter Himself, He would have built His own house or houses.
There are numerous passages indicating that Jesus owned His own house—or perhaps even more than one. He grew up in Nazareth, but He later lived or “dwelt” in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13), “His own city” (Matthew 9:1). Luke makes this possible distinction when referring to Nazareth as the city where Jesus “had been brought up” (Luke 4:16). It appears that at some point in time, then, Jesus made His adult home in Capernaum. We read that when in Capernaum, Jesus would go into “THE” house, and that people would visit Him there when they found out that He was in the house (compare Matthew 13:1, 36). Many commentaries say that this is a reference to Peter’s house in Capernaum, but it would be strange that in a few passages, it is specifically said that He entered “Peter’s house” (Matthew 8:14), while in most cases, it is only stated that He was in THE house. It was obviously a dwelling place which was well known to the people—they knew where to go when they heard that He was in THE house. The strong indication is that it was actually Christ’s house where He would live, when He was dwelling in Capernaum, and when He was not on a missionary journey.
For instance, in Mark 2:1, some commentaries feel that the phrase, “He was in the house,” should be rendered, according to the original Greek, as “He was at home”—which would strongly indicate that Christ either owned a house in Capernaum, or that He was renting one, still showing that this was “His home.”
Later, when Jesus went up from Capernaum to Nazareth, we read His words in Matthew 13:57, which could refer to His relatives and/or to visitors in His own house: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country [or: hometown, compare New American Standard Bible] and in his own house.” And so, He did not do many works in His hometown where He had grown up, “because of their unbelief” (verse 58).
Some have claimed that Joseph and Mary were poor and could not afford to have and live in a house in Nazareth because Christ was born in a manger. But we must realize that Joseph and Mary, who was pregnant, had to travel to Bethlehem to be registered there, because that was the location where Joseph had been born; but even then, we find that later they were no longer in a manger (Luke 2:7), but in a house (Matthew 2:11)—perhaps a house which was owned by Joseph’s relatives. We point this out to show that it was not unusual for people at that time to own houses. We must also recognize that Joseph and Mary were betrothed to get married—that is, they were already called husband and wife (Matthew 1:18-19, 24), but they had not yet consummated their marriage–and Joseph, as a just man who might not even have been anymore in his “teenage years,” had certainly financially prepared for his marriage with Mary (compare Proverbs 24:27; 27:23-27).
We read that Jesus said that foxes have holes and birds have nests but that the Son of Man had no place to lay His head. Some commentaries claim that this proves that Jesus could not have owned a house—and that He was pretty much homeless. However, we must look at the context. While Matthew 8:20 is not as specific as to the timing, the parallel passage in Luke 9:58 is given in the context of when He was on a journey with His disciples, and the Samaritans refused to grant them shelter (compare Luke 9:51-56; note verse 57: “NOW it happened as they journeyed on the road…”). There were times when Christ and His disciples did not encounter hospitality, while they were on their missionary journeys, and it was that fact which Jesus stressed when He spoke about the sacrifices one must be willing to make when he or she wants to follow Christ (compare verses 57-58).
In this context, also note what Peter said of himself and the other apostles: “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?'” (Matthew 19:27; compare Mark 10:28). Notice Jesus’ answer in Mark 10:29-30: “So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.’”
However, we also know that Peter and many of the other apostles had wives and that they did not leave them, but they continued their responsibilities as husbands (compare 1 Corinthians 9:5; the reference to “Cephas” is the Aramaic name for Peter). What both Jesus and His disciples gave up was their daily jobs–the work they had been trained in. Some left their family business (compare Matthew 4:20, 22; Mark 1:18, 20; Luke 5:27-28). Provision was made for them by the support of others (compare Luke 8:1-3).
We should also recognize that the soldiers did not want to cut Jesus’ garments and clothing, when He was hanging on the cross (or better, stake), but they cast lots to determine who should receive them (Matthew 27:35). Even though their conduct was in fulfillment of a prophecy, it is also worthwhile to mention that His garments and clothing were apparently not “cheap,” but of such a quality and value that the soldiers were willing to cast lots for them.
The fact that Jesus told John in His final hours to take care of His mother Mary, and that John took her into his own house (John 19:25-27), does not contradict the concept that Jesus might have owned a house. Rather, Jesus wanted John to take care of His mother, having the greatest confidence that John–the disciple whom He loved–would be the best person to carry out that heavy responsibility.
We might also take note of the fact that James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, evidently lived in or near Jerusalem following Christ’s death and resurrection. He did so in order to fulfill his responsibilities in administering the Headquarters Church from Jerusalem (compare Acts 12:17, 15:13; 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Galatians 1:18-19).
Some critics claim that in passages such as Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, and Luke 18:22, Jesus told His followers to dispose of all their possessions; yet, He Himself owned a house. They conclude that Christ was a hypocrite and that His teachings must be rejected. However, any HONEST view of these Scriptures forces us to conclude that Jesus spoke to one particular rich man who had made a god out of his riches. He was not willing to give up his idol to follow Christ. Christ, knowing His heart, told the young man that he needed to overcome his idolatry, and it was in that particular case that He told him to sell whatever he had (note, these passages do not even single out the possession of houses). It is true that Christ made clear to all of us that we must forsake everything—whatever it may be—IF those (physical) things would prevent us from building a right relationship with God and to follow Him completely. Of course, whatever physical possessions Christ might have had, they NEVER induced Him to make that mistake which He warned others about.
Scriptures seem to indicate that Christ did own a house—and perhaps even more than one. But ultimately, it is not of great importance whether Jesus owned or rented a house or whether He dwelled with His disciples in their houses—as long as we understand that Jesus was not a homeless vagabond or a hippie. He was a living example of God’s Way of Life, and the Bible tells us that God wants us to prosper in all things (3 John 2). Scriptures also tell us that when we obey God (and Christ always obeyed Him, not sinning once), God would bless us financially (compare Malachi 3:8-10). David even said that he was young and grew old, and he never saw the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread (Psalm 37:25).
In this Q&A, we are not taking any position on whether or not it is wise or unwise to buy a house in the present financial climate. This is a personal decision which everyone must make, based on his or her individual circumstances. Some may feel that they can afford buying a house, while others have bought houses with far-too-high mortgages and with little or no equity, and because of the collapse of the housing market and the recent great recession or depression, banks foreclosed on them and they lost or walked away from their houses, as they were unable to pay their mortgages.
We know that terrible and “expensive” times are ahead of us, but we also know that when we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, God will give us all the physical things that we need, including food, clothing and shelter. God the Father did most certainly do this for Christ—the prime example of Someone who did seek first in His life God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Christ’s mission was to preach the gospel and to finish the Work which the Father had given Him to do, and when He died, He exclaimed: “It is finished.” Christ’s disciples are to follow that example today.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link