Was Jesus Homeless?

By Dillon Burroughs

Jesus was born in a manger, lived as a refugee as a preschooler, and lived in a small town until his early thirties. Prior to his public ministry, he was known as a carpenter, likely living with his family in Nazareth. But some suggest Jesus was even homeless at points, offering valuable insight into one who became "like us" in ways that even those without shelter can appreciate. Is this true? What Jesus ever homeless?

One passage that stands at the heart of this debate is Matthew 8:19-20 (also recorded in Luke 9:57-58). Matthew shares, "Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'" These verses make it clear that Jesus had no home at the time. He served as a traveling rabbi, camping along the way or staying in the homes of others as a guest. At least during this time in His ministry, Jesus fit the modern description of a homeless person.

However, Jesus certainly did not sleep outside for all three years of His public ministry. Many of His followers supplied for His needs, meaning Jesus would have often stayed at the houses of others as a guest. The Gospels record Jesus eating and teaching in the homes of others on a variety of occasions, so it would not be surprising to find Him staying as a guest in some of these homes as well.

What is interesting in a close look of the life of Jesus is how much of His life consisted in living among the lower-income people of His time. He was born in obscurity, raised as ordinary, and ministered without concern for income. On one occasion, Jesus paid His taxes via a fish Peter caught that had a coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:24-27). On another occasion, Jesus borrowed a coin to teach about paying taxes (Matthew 22:15-22). Why? He likely didn't have any money with Him at the time!

Other factors can be mentioned about the humble means by which Jesus lived. When the guards took the clothes off His back on the day He died, no other clothing was mentioned. It may have been all the clothing He had. Jesus also appeared to own no livestock, one of the main signs of wealth in His time. Jesus may have only lived barefoot at times as well. No shoes were mentioned, for example, when He changed His clothing to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13); however, John the Baptist mentioned the sandals of Jesus three years earlier (Luke 3:16).

Even at the end of His life, Jesus spent His last night on earth homeless, praying in a garden. He was then arrested, beaten, and killed on our behalf. Jesus was certainly homeless at times, yet His focus was on a home beyond this world, one where He has gone to prepare a place for all who believe in Him (John 14:1-3).

Image Credit: Shimon Koifman; "ezuzNov2013-007"; Creative Commons

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Published 5-2-13