In the earliest days of Christianity, to the outside observer, one of the most baffling aspects of Christ was His birth, not as powerful hero conqueror, but as a poor commoner in a backwater of the Roman Empire. To the pagans confronting the life of Christ for the first time, His poverty would have been a shocking contradiction to gods and emperors that the world held up as divinities and demigods. In a world that held up Alexander and Caesar as gods, a poor carpenter would have been an exceedingly odd choice as the true “Kýrios” and King of Kings.

But how do we actually know that Jesus was born poor? Wasn’t he descended from the royal House of David? While the Bible doesn’t make any specific mentions of the societal status of the Holy Family, one clue allows us to know exactly how poor and modest they truly were.

In accordance with the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took the infant Christ to be presented at the Temple in Jerusalem 40 days after His birth. Leviticus 12 prescribes that a woman after childbirth was “ritually” unclean until purified. The Mosaic Law also goes on to prescribe the sacrifice that was to be made, specifically, a lamb less than a year old and a young dove or pigeon. (Lev. 12:6)

However, in Luke 2:24, it is written that the Holy Family offered a sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Leviticus 12:8 reads: “If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons.” This shows that the Holy Family was too poor to be able to afford the prescribed sacrifice and instead had to present the alternative the Law allowed for the poor.

The fact the King of the Universe chose to be born poor and humble is a profound sign. It shows that God truly is with the weak, the impoverished, and the hungry by truly becoming one of them.

Today, just as in the time of Christ, poverty continues to crush countless people under its oppressive weight. In our own time, more than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. As followers of Christ, we are commanded to care for the poor and less fortunate.

One way you can directly support the poor and hungry, right from your desktop or smartphone, is with MISSIO, a new and innovative Catholic crowd-funding platform powered by The Pontifical Mission Societies.

MISSIO allows you to search through vital charity projects – ones providing for basic needs, others extending the Good News of the Gospel to remote areas, and still more bringing the light of the Lord’s loving kindness to those in the darkest circumstances.

Launched by Pope Francis himself, the MISSIO platform offers a direct connection to change-makers who work on the “front lines” making a difference for the poor and marginalized through direct, daily service.

Some example of the types of projects you can support on MISSIO includes helping a priest give a shelter for orphans and abandoned children in Uganda, help priests and sisters provide emergency famine relief for starving people in South Sudan, help protect children from Tuberculosis in the Philippines, and many others dire situations.

Choose one of these missions of Pope Francis, donate directly to them, and know that 100% of your donation will go directly there. Share them on social media so others can support the projects also.

MISSIO is powered by The Pontifical Mission Societies, the Catholic Church’s official support organization for overseas missions since 1822, providing for a global network of people who are making a difference for communities in need around the globe.

Check out MISSIO today and start giving!

Get our inspiring content delivered to your inbox every morning - FREE!


    • They probably used it to pay for their surreptitious flight to Egypt and to support themselves in the 2 years they spent there as refugees. Maybe to buy/hire a horse/chariot, a bodyguard/sword for protection against highwaymen, etc. Travel was horrendously expensive, difficult and dangerous in those days. Especially if travelling via the byways instead of the main roads to avoid detection by Herod’s soldiers.

    • I always wondered about that . One of the Italian movies about the nativity which focuses on Joseph, shows Josephnusing the gold to bribe Herods men or Egyptian officials doing Herod’s will who are trying to stop thenHoky Family st the Egyptian border after the slaughter of geninnocents. Interesting take . Another take is that it was needed to live in a foreign land (Egypt). These of course are not official stances but interesting speculation.

  1. I would think that a carpenter, in those days, was not a poor occupation. Poverty, of course, is always relative to the rest of society. The overwhelming majority of people in those days were involved in agriculture. Joseph was not a shepherd or day laborer or even a fisherman. Being a carpenter takes skill and that puts you somewhere above those living at subsistence levels.

    • The article is not claiming that He was in the poorest class of society. But He was definitely in the economic bottom half, far below the merchants, priests, aristocrats.

  2. Whether Jesus, Mary and Joseph were materially poor is besides the point. I think we need to turn our eyes, ears and hearts to a different poverty that Jesus Himself told us about. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.” Their whole life was being poor in spirit, relying on God for EVERYTHING, and ironically to those who cannot see, they did see God.

  3. By being of the house of David, there was a certain amount of prestige attached to the family. It did not make them rich but gave them respect. As a carpenter Joseph would probably be lower middle class and to sacrifice a lamb, a valuable piece of livestock, would definitely be for someone higher up the income ladder.

  4. It seems that there were two major classes of people, the leisurely who would be considered the rich, and then the laboring class considered as the poor. Since Joseph worked at a trade, he would fall into the “poor” category. But he was not destitute. Scripture records how the Holy Family went annually to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover with others. The trip alone took 3 to 4 days each way and the celebration a few days. So Joseph had to have had enough saved to afford that annually.

  5. I’m always annoyed when the SJW folks describe Joseph and Mary as “homeless” in Bethlehem. They were NOT homeless… Joseph provided a home for his Family. No, “there was no room at the Inns” – Our Blessed Lord was rejected right from the start. No one had “room” for Him in their hearts, minds and souls. He was born in the City of Bread and placed in a manger because He would become our Food for the journey to Heaven. But this can only happen if we make room for Him in our lives.
    And sadly, any “charity” promoted by Pope Francis is one I cannot in conscience support. There are plenty of ways to give to and serve the poor. I know so many Catholics now who will not support Vatican causes… their concern, and mine, is that their funds may be used to support another climate change summit or another celebration of Luther’s destruction of the Church.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here