What Did Jesus Say about Money and What Can We Learn from It?

The Bible has a lot to say about money, but Jesus is less vocal. What does Jesus have to say about money?

Money in the Mouth of God

Jesus seldom talks directly about money. Half of these times are parables where the money is used as an analogy. These are the Parable of the Missing Coin in Luke 15:18, the Treasure in the Field and the Pearl of Great Price in Matthew 13:44-50, and the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

This leaves us with the story of the Widow’s Mite, Jesus’s position on taxes, the cleansing of the temple, and the rich man.

The Widow’s Mite

“Jesus looked up and saw some rich people tossing their gifts into the offering box. He also saw a poor widow putting in two pennies. And he said, ‘I tell you that this poor woman has put in more than all the others. Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had.’”

Luke 21:1-4

Gospel commentators point out that the widow has two coins—she could have chosen to donate only one. Instead, she puts in both.

We can view this literally as a calling to donate our money (as the story of the rich man calls us to do). However, in this instance, and in other Biblical references to charity, we are called to donate to the poor rather than to the temple. It’s more likely that this, too, is a parable in which the Lord tells us to give all that we have—including our time and ability.

The Cleansing of the Temple

“Jesus went to Jerusalem. There he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves in the temple. He also saw moneychangers sitting at their tables. So he took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins.”

John 2:13-15

As His position on taxes also demonstrates, Jesus driving out the moneychangers is a lesson that our spiritual lives and our financial lives can be separate. We know from the story of the Widow’s Mite that Jesus advocated for donations to the church, but he reminds us here that you can’t buy heaven (and shouldn’t try).

Jesus on Taxes

Some Jews believed that it was sacrilegious to pay taxes to Rome. Here, the Pharisees approach Jesus, asking him whether it is lawful for Jews to pay taxes. They believe His response will either upset Rome or rile up the Jewish Zealots.

“Jesus knew what they were up to, and he said, ‘Why are you trying to test me? Show me a coin!’ They brought him a silver coin, and he asked, ‘Whose picture and name are on it?’ ‘The Emperor’s,’ they answered. Then Jesus told them, ‘Give the Emperor [Caesar] what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.’”

Mark 12:15-17 

This story reinforces our analysis of the story of the Widow’s Mite and of the moneychangers. God isn’t interested in our money for its own sake. We should give generously of our time and talents, and be generous with our money to those who need it, but we do live in secular societies, and we are still of use to God if we tend to our civil obligations as well as our spiritual ones.

The Rich Man

A rich man approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him:

“Go sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come with me.”

Mark 10:21

Then He tells His disciples:

“It’s hard for rich people to get into God’s kingdom!”

Mark 10:23

Note that Jesus does not say it is impossible for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only that it is difficult. It also seems to be contingent on using that wealth to help those who are less fortunate.

The Root of All Evil?

Jesus never says that money is evil or that those who have money are evil. What Jesus really says on the topic of money is that we should use what we can to help others.

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