Not much to look at. That’s the way scripture describes Him. He was born as a humble carpenter’s son and lived in a backwoods town of Nazareth. He never sought, and of course, he never acquired wealth or political power. He consciously decided to live a life of simplicity and few possessions. He begged for His basic food and shelter. During his ministry, he had no home. If you were to follow him, you too had to leave money and possessions behind, and live on hand-outs day to day.
I assure you, many of my Christian friends today, some of them very bright and “successful” would shun Jesus if He was physically present to them. I think we would judge him as a “loser.” Secretly, I think we would be threatened by what his lifestyle represented: a questioning of what we give so much time and energy to accumulate. Without a major job title, a sizable income, and a stable family life anchored in an expensive residence, he wouldn’t be nominated (much less elected) to the Board of Elders of a prosperous church. He might not even get through the doors.
He chose His poverty I believe to make a point: what we consider important as fear-driven humans is not important in God’s eternal perspective or purpose. Principles and Truth that define our role in the “Kingdom of God” are what matter. “Things” and “position” or “power” miss the mark. “Things” and “Power” are only useful if used for God’s purposes.
There is a hierarchy of purposes. Certainly, at the most basic level, we are to have the necessities of life. Our basic human dignity requires safety, peace, and sufficient food, clothing and shelter, and a means of employment that derives income from our efforts. We are to create just societies in which others have equal opportunity and access to the basics of life. Jesus taught that God wants us to have these necessities and the Father will provide them. God has created a world with abundance. That there is a lack of life’s basic necessities for all reflects the greed and injustice of human societies.
Once we have these “necessities” we can address the higher order purpose for why we are even here, taking up space and resources. Jesus presented a model of “truths” that were vivid because he grounded them in our freedom of will and our power of choice. I believe He chose a life of poverty so that when people heard Him teach, they would be amazed at what really mattered. This wonderfully powerful man commanded the unseen forces of the spiritual world. He changed radically the usual operations of nature to raise the dead, control storms, heal the lame, blind, and deaf, and diseased. Yet, He was a “nobody” in the material and political world around Him. He was of a “different order” unlike anything or anyone they would ordinarily have associated with “power” or the use of power.
I think Jesus choose to be materially poor, physically ordinary, and politically irrelevant, because he wanted His message to be front and center: God loves us, and He wants our relationship with Him to be of the highest importance. This first order love is followed by a second order love: that we love and be loved by our fellow beings as well.
This word “love” is so little understood and so often glibly used in our time. Essentially, love is the desire and action of nurturing and supporting one another. We “love” when our hearts and our hands combine to meet one anothers’ basic material needs and to advance one anothers’ spiritual reason for being here. Sometimes that “spiritual reason” is as simple as providing comfort to a destitute or dying person. Sometimes it may be a college of bishops meeting to debate and release a statement on the ethical implications of a particular social or economic policy.
At our best, we glorify the Father by the applying of our unique abilities, talents, and experiences consistently for the joy and good of others. Thus, we glorify God by being exceptional homemakers, or home builders, or business managers, or entrepreneurs, or waitresses, or child care providers, or hospice workers, or lawyers. Sometimes, we are all blessed by the exceptional musician, poet, writer, actor, visual artist, dancer, or sculptor. We can also bless others if we are gifted as politicians and government workers. No legal job is without the potential for glorifying God.
So I think Jesus chose to be a “nobody” materially so that the world would see that His Father was truly “somebody” of highest importance. He wanted everyone to know beyond question that His power was “not of this world.” He wanted to eliminate as many illusions, distractions, and sideshows as possible. He had one purpose, and that was to reveal the Father and the Father’s message of love to a sick and dark world. He came to bring a message of restoration and new life. He was not about “self-fulfillment” like the Joel Olsteen preachers or the New Age messengers. He was about “God-fulfillment” or more accurately “God Infillment.”
He taught us to pray: “give us this day our daily bread . . .” He was aware we have basic material needs, and that these needs are important. He wants us to have “enough” for each day. But he also taught at the beginning of His model for prayer: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done . . .” This is the first order, the highest level, of purpose and awareness.
Begin to rest in the comfort of knowing that your Father is a good provider, and that you will have “enough.” Make it your priority to put first value on first things: loving God, being loved by God, and loving others. “But seek first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33. Mark 10:20-23.