Wasn’t Jesus Homeless, or a Refugee, or Financially Destitute? The Answer to All These Questions Is No!

By B. Nathaniel Sullivan

On Christmas Day in 2019, Pete Buttigieg, then mayor of South Bend, Indiana, tweeted out Christmas greetings. He said,

Today I join millions around the world in celebrating the arrival of divinity on earth, who came into this world not in riches but in poverty, not as a citizen but as a refugee.

No matter where or how we celebrate, merry Christmas.

Streiff, a contributor at redstate.com, wasn’t buying Buttigieg’s portrayal of the Savior; nor did he hesitate to call attention to the disconnect between the South Bend mayor’s lifestyle and biblical teachings. He wrote,

Buttigieg is one of those people who, despite living an immoral and dissolute lifestyle explicitly condemned by Scripture (that would be the proscription on homosexual acts) and in direct disobedience to the words of Christ (see Matthew 19:4-6), takes it upon himself to lecture everyone else about what it means to be a Christian.

Unfortunately, even some Christian leaders seem now to be gleefully promoting the ideas that Jesus was a refugee, homeless, and absolutely dirt poor. An article at hegetsus.com titled “Did Jesus live in poverty?” claims Jesus was homeless based on a passage that quite likely doesn’t indicate this at all:

As we studied the live of Jesus, we noticed a trend — Jesus displayed immense empathy for the poor and the needy. But why? Then it struck us. Jesus was homeless himself. He noted that birds had nests and foxes had holes, but he didn’t have a place to rest his head each night. His life was one of simplicity and deprivation.

Could there ever be a more effective way to “humanize Jesus” and to lead people to conclude that He was “one of us” than to assert that He could identify with the least fortunate among men because He also was homeless and owned nothing? This tugs at heartstrings and even even will give some people goose pimples. To really understand who Jesus was, however, we must think and study — not just feel.

To really understand who Jesus was, we must think and study — not merely feel.

While Jesus did say that “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” this doesn’t mean He was homeless. In an article at evangelmagazine.com, Daniel Black discusses the context of Jesus’ statement and highlights the apparent motive behind the question that prompted the Lord to say what He said about foxes and birds.

Jesus’ statement was made to a man who volunteered to follow Him (v. 57) in hopes of escaping from responsibility. Unlike foxes and birds that withdraw to their dens and nests for rest, Jesus said there was no place for Him to rest from His responsibilities. Jesus was on His last journey to Jerusalem to be crucified (v. 51), and He and His disciples had just been refused hospitality by a Samaritan village (vv. 52-53). If this would-be disciple wanted to escape responsibility, Jesus wanted him to know, he would not find that following Him.

Another writer makes this excellent point:

In the Hebrew Bible, referring to “laying one’s head down” usually means being able to do so in peace, as in Psalm 23, Psalm 4:8, and the different animals lying down together in Isaiah 11:6-7 and Hosea 2:18. Sleeping an untroubled sleep is a gift from God [see Ps. 127:2].…

Foxes and birds to not live in their respective shelters—it’s where they go to be safe.

This same writer also asserts that having to deal with the problems of homelessness and abject poverty never would afford a teacher the time necessary to engage in the type of ministry Jesus conducted. His was a teaching and healing ministry to the masses that eventually gave way to a worldwide movement; and it included spending quality time with His apostles, the men who eventually would take the movement far beyond Palestine itself.

In fact, Jesus did have a place to stay, a home, during His ministry. Matthew 4:13 tells us, “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali.” Daniel Black cites numerous verses that refer to Jesus’ residence as “the house” — Matthew 9:28; 13:1, 36; Mark 2:1; 7:17; 9:28, 33; 10:10 — and then makes this observation: “If I say to you, ‘I am going to the house,’ you know I mean the house I live in—my residence.”

Not Destitute

Jesus’ father was a carpenter, and Jesus Himself became one as well; so productive work was familiar to both this earthly father and His adopted son. There is no indication this family was destitute, although they likely were not wealthy. Yes, it is true that when Mary and Joseph brought the sacrifice for Mary’s purification just over a month after Jesus had been born (see Luke 2:22-24), they offered two turtledoves rather than a lamb (see Ex. 13:2; Lev. 12:1-8). It is reasonable to assume they couldn’t afford to offer a lamb, at least at that point. Even so, the family wasn’t homeless. When the wise men arrived to worship Jesus as a child, probably within a year or two after He was born, they came “into the house [where] they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.”

Nor was Jesus a refugee. He was born in a stable because, after traveling to Bethlehem from Nazareth to take part in the Roman census, the crowded town offered “no room” for Mary and Joseph, even though Mary would indeed give birth right then and there. Streiff notes that

Joseph and Mary and Jesus were citizens of a province of the Roman Empire. When the Massacre of Innocents took place, they fled to Egypt and stayed, we think, in the rather sizable Jewish community there. Egypt was also part of the Roman Empire.

Stop Portraying Jesus as Homeless and Poor in Order to Promote Your Pet Social Justice Cause!

Yes, Jesus cared about those who were poor, and those in need, and the disadvantaged. Even so, His primary mission was not to rescue them from povertybut “to seek and to save that which was lost.” This spiritual quest actually is the primary focus of the portion of Isaiah 61:1-2 Jesus read at the synagogue at Nazareth in Luke 4:16-30. Isaiah 61:1-2 is a messianic prophecy — and significantly, Jesus stopped reading just before the part about God’s vengeance. Jesus was indeed on a spiritual quest to bring salvation to lost sinners. Divine vengeance and judgement would come, but at Jesus second coming — not during His first.

Jesus film

So, I wish to say this to all social justice warriors in the church: Repent of misrepresenting Jesus and His mission! Stop portraying Him as homeless and poor, or as a refugee, to promote your pet social justice cause.

You’re not just promoting the social justice narrative; you’re also promoting a counterfeit gospel.