By Ignacio R. Bunye
During the Holy Week, I thought of deviating from my usual column topics and I decided to write about money matters during the time of our Lord Jesus Christ. My personal objective was to gain a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural context in which Jesus lived and taught. As always, money is a significant part of everyday, whether in the past or in the present, and understanding how Jesus thought about and interacted with money can shed more light on his broader principles and values.
Additionally, studying Jesus’ teachings about money can offer insights into how we might apply those teachings to our own lives and financial practices. Jesus’ teachings on topics such as generosity, wealth, and material possessions continue to be as relevant today as they were more than 2,000 years ago.
During the time of Jesus, there were several currencies that were used in different regions of the Roman Empire, which included the area of Judea where Jesus lived and preached. The most common was the Roman denarius. It was made of silver and had the image of the current emperor on one side. (Remember the story about “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God, what is God’s”?)
One of the critical incidents leading up to the crucifixion involved money. According to the Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, for thirty pieces of silver or 30 denarii. The value of thirty denarii in biblical times would have been roughly equivalent to four months’ wages for a laborer.
Jesus knew that he would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot. In fact, Jesus even predicted the betrayal before it happened. In Matthew 26:21-25, Jesus tells his disciples during the Last Supper that one of them will betray him. When they ask who it is, Jesus answers, ” The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.” Later, when Judas arrives with a crowd to arrest Jesus, he identifies him with a kiss, fulfilling the prophecy.
Additionally, in Matthew 26:24, Jesus says, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” This statement indicates that Jesus knew the betrayal was part of God’s plan, but he also recognized the seriousness of Judas’ betrayal and its consequences.
Later, in Matthew 27:3-5, it is stated that after Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death, Judas regretted his betrayal and returned the thirty denarii to the chief priests, but they refused to take the money back. Judas then went and hanged himself.
Jesus Christ taught a lot about money and material possessions during his time on earth. One of the most famous teachings is found in the Bible in Matthew 6:19-21, where Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This teaching emphasizes the importance of valuing eternal things, rather than worldly possessions that are temporary and can easily be lost or stolen.
Jesus also taught about the dangers of greed and the love of money. In Luke 12:15, he said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Furthermore, Jesus taught about giving to others and being generous with our resources. In Luke 6:38, he said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The teachings of Jesus regarding tithing are not extensively documented in the New Testament, but there are a few instances where he mentions the practice. In the Gospel of Luke (18:9-14), Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who go to the temple to pray. The Pharisee boasts about his righteousness, including his practice of tithing, while the tax collector humbly asks for God’s mercy. Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14) Overall, while Jesus did not explicitly command his followers to tithe, he did not condemn the practice either. Instead, he emphasized the importance of justice, mercy, and faith, and warned against using religious practices as a way to gain personal status or recognition.
To recap, Jesus’ teachings about money emphasize the importance of valuing eternal things, being content with what we have, and being generous with our resources to help others.