Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us? – Mark 6:3
(Adapted from The Individualist by Elisabeth Bennett)
Have you ever paused to think about Jesus’ day job? No, not as a preacher and teacher, but as a carpenter. Our scriptures teach us that Jesus was taught a trade and labored with his hands. It’s quite something to think about!
It is commonly thought that Jesus worked with wood. However, modern translations, teachers, and historians actually think the Greek word tekton that we translate as carpenter is more accurately translated as craftsman, meaning that Jesus may have actually been a stonesman! Given the rock-dense landscape of ancient Israel and the lack of trees, this makes a lot of sense. So instead of thinking of Jesus with his hands covered in sawdust, perhaps we should think of him as cutting, preparing, and forming stones into useful and beautiful things.
Now, like most of us, Jesus worked his job in order to provide for his family. But I don’t think the type of work – being a craftsman – was an afterthought. Jesus’ family was Jewish, descendants of David, a humble family who worked with their hands. When God came to earth, it wasn’t with a showy or grand career. Jesus wasn’t born into power or privilege. Instead, he was a working-class builder.
When I imagine the scene of Jesus working, though, I imagine him with a smile on his face, delighting in his work, just as God delighted in the work of creation. And no doubt, Jesus left behind items that he created – practical goods that his hands formed.
The art of creating comes straight from our creative God. When you create something beautiful, you’re reflecting God’s creative nature. Jesus himself did this with his work as a carpenter or stonemason, and that’s not something for us to gloss over. Creativity is important work and reflects the very nature of God.