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(CNN)“Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me,” Jesus tells the rich man in one of his best-known parables.
It was a mantra he invoked repeatedly: the poor were blessed, and it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for the well-to-do to enter paradise. Meanwhile, Jesus told his Twelve Apostles to leave their day jobs and follow him on an itinerant mission with few prospects of success and no visible means of support.
So how did this wandering band of first-century evangelists support themselves?
Clearly, money was a concern, and not just as an impediment to salvation. In the New Testament, money gets 37 mentions, while “gold” gets 38 citations, “silver” merits 20, and “copper” four. “Coin” comes up eight times, and “purse” and “denarii” — the Roman currency — get half a dozen mentions each for a total of 119 currency referrals.
Perhaps the most relevant reference is also one of the most charged passages in the New Testament: