Acton Institute Powerblog

What Would Jesus Drive? A Cadillac, of course!

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There’s a new answer to the question, “What would Jesus drive?”, a contention that won’t sit well with the environmental activists who first raised the question.

The inevitably revisionist logic of the prosperity gospel has to hold that “Jesus couldn’t have been poor because he received lucrative gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh — at birth. Jesus had to be wealthy because the Roman soldiers who crucified him gambled for his expensive undergarments. Even Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, lived and traveled in style.”

As the Rev. C. Thomas Anderson, senior pastor of the Living Word Bible Church in Mesa, Arizona, says, “Mary and Joseph took a Cadillac to get to Bethlehem because the finest transportation of their day was a donkey. Poor people ate their donkey. Only the wealthy used it as transportation.”

After all, who would want to follow a poor Jesus? “That’s so pathetic, to say that Jesus was struggling alone in the dust and dirt,” Anderson says. “That just makes no sense whatsoever. He was constantly in a state of wealth.”

While the materialistic economism of the false prosperity gospel continues to spread like wildfire, the Lausanne Theology Working Group says that “the teachings of those who most vigorously promote the ‘prosperity gospel’ are false and gravely distorting of the Bible.”

For more, check out what J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu has to say in CT’s Global Conversation, and the accompanying video:

The Prosperity Gospel from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • It is interesting to note that most “poor” people in the US today would be rich by the standards of 1st century Judea. Being middle class (and sinking all the time), I suppose that I (and most of us reading this blog entry) would be considered filthy rich.

    I don’t know if Jesus was poor or rich in material wealth, though I suspect the former, and I don’t think it matters. He died for our sins, period, and nothing can possibly make any of us richer.

  • What type of man who has no home, yet still has a Cadillac? I am reminded of the man who went to Las Vegas in $20,000 convertible and came home in a $250,000 Greyhound. Jesus had 12 people, plus others, to ferry around…picture something like a musical band or theatre group on the road and I think we’ll get a better idea.

    This type of question gets off the point of Jesus’s ministry. What is significant whether he shops at Nordstrom or Walmart?

  • McKeithan Smith, Jr.

    Weather Jesus was rich or poor is immaterial. The prosperity gospel has very little if anything to do with the primary mission of Jesus — that of saving a people lost in sin! I am reminded of the “bag” reference some prosperity teachers resort to as evidence that Jesus was “rich” In my opinion, this simply is an illustration that Jesus and his followers were resource-minded. They used financial gifts and donations to to advance his ministry. Like today, it takes considerable resources to spread the gospel; and in no way does this suggest that Jesus was rich or poor. Therefore, these prosperity preachers are no more than prognosticators of biblical and spiritual distortion.

    Mac Smith,
    Pastor, Sweethome Bible Church
    El Paso, TX

  • MaryAnn

    Preachers of the “prosperity gospel” are primarily concerned with their own prosperity, which they have in abundance.

  • Frank Dahl

    Please don’t lump everyone in one category as belonging to the “false prosperity gospel”. God wants to bless us to be a blessing to the world. It is not for selfish reasons, or materialistic reasons that God will bless us ;but it is so we can spread the good news. There is a balance to the prosperity gospel.Look at the life of George Mueller and how he proved to the world that God will provide. He believed that God would prosper his ministry to the orphans in England and God did.Some so called prosperity ministers are out of balance,but others have done a lot to help others.

  • Patrick

    We have discussed Jesus as a consumer. For most of his life he was a carpenter, a consumer. Would he have marketed through Wal-Mart or and up-scale channel? Or is there a morality at all here?

  • Patrick

    Oopps Jesus was a producer, while in his carpenter years.

  • Frank, I appreciate the point you are trying to make. I think “stewardship” is a better term to use than “prosperity” for the reality you are talking about, because the former includes all aspects of our life, not simply material wealth. An overemphasis on material wealth really does skew the Bible and our appreciation for more “spiritual,” less “material,” gifts.