Did Jesus Work?

I know we all say Jesus was a carpenter, and we all assume he learned the trade from his father, Joseph. We also assume that he worked as a carpenter up until he began his three years of ministry at about the age of thirty.

But did he continue to work as a carpenter even after he began his ministry? We never read about him working in the Gospels (that I can recall). Luke 8:3 indicates that Jesus had some followers who “provided for him from their substance.” Does this mean that he lived off of the donations of benefactors?

I really wish Jesus had worked during his ministry. I also wish he had gotten married and had kids. Yes, I know that this would have created lots of problems for the future of the church, especially in regard to leadership. But it would have given us married, working fathers who also want to teach a good model to follow. Jesus doesn’t fit. 

I would really like to see in Scripture, especially in the New Testament, an example of someone who was “successful” in a teaching ministry, who also had a full-time job, was married, and had children.

Can you think of one? Peter, you say? No, he left his work to follow Jesus. Also, we don’t know if he had children. John? Information is too limited. Luke? He was a physician, but was he married? Did he have kids? Paul, at least, worked to pay his way for ministry. But he wasn’t married and didn’t have children.

I really, really wish there were some good biblical models. Can anybody help me out? I am looking for a man in the Bible who:

  1. Has a teaching ministry
  2. Has a clearly defined, regular job
  3. Is married
  4. Has kids

Kings don’t count. I know that being a king is a job, but… come on… being a king is not a “regular” job. Moses might come close, but what was his job? And I’m not sure his marriage and family went so well (that’s a study for another time). Abraham might be a candidate, but what was his “teaching” ministry? Maybe one or two of the Prophets? I wish I knew more about their lives.

Can anyone help me out?



Comments

  1. mands81 says

    Can’t relate to what you are asking cause lol I’m not a man.But I think these questions/seekings are relevant.especially with the whole materialism thing in a developing country like S.A where being a responsible follower of messiah means having a 9-5 job…yuck,more conforming and going with the flow.what a bunch of contaminated robots we are.

    • says

      Mandy, I’m a bit confused. Having a 9-5 job is conforming and going with the flow? I understand it is what most people do, but how else can we provide food and housing for our families?

  2. says

    I say this without intending any disrespect to anyone on a personal level, but I resent the hell out of the assumption that “normal life” is separate from one’s ministry. As a business owner and general contractor I resent the implication that my “teaching ministry” is any less powerful or meaningful than someone out of seminary employed as a full-time minister.

    I’ll take it further. I give jobs to people in need. I mentor sub-contractors with their businesses, marriages, and the raising of their kids. I help finance the businesses of plumbers, painters, electricians, and roofers during dry inconsistent times. I am their advocate, counselor and friend. My success is based entirely on the success of those around me and that has to go further than how much money they have in the bank. These folks need to be healthy spiritually, psychologically and emotionally in order to fulfill their potential and allow that potential to spill over into hiring more people that they, in turn, can mentor and serve.

    I’m not the only one that does these things in order to provide “real world” guidance and mentoring to men and women that fall outside the realm of churches. There are many of us doing a “regular job” that translates into a “teaching ministry.” Do you really want to start comparing stripes between my network of Christian remodeling contractors and the full-time teaching ministers here in Tulsa, OK? Do you really really want to break down the numbers about “real” impact on our communities? If you’re sensing a little anger here, let me just admit that I have baggage in this area. Ok, I’ve said enough…

    You show me someone that can truly minister to the real world needs of men and women as well as your local small business owners and I’ll tip my hat to them. Otherwise, I don’t quite care for the idea that full-time ministry is anything more than an easy way out for folks that would rather avoid the “real world”.

    In the circles that I travel in…carpenters, painters, electricians, cabinet makers and plumbers…you better be willing to pick up a hammer and do some demo before you start touting the merits of full-time ministry. Most of these folks don’t give much merit to individuals that spend the majority of their time studying Greek and asking for the hard earned money of blue collar folks.

    I’ve got nothing against full-time ministry, but I think the fact that Jesus had such a short amount of time to complete his mission necessitated a great deal of travel and flexibility. Otherwise, I think he would have been happy to stay a carpenter while teaching, nurturing, and guiding a whole different set of disciples. His was an abbreviated life punctuated with a hard deadline.

    “Hi, my name’s Bonar and I’m a heretic.”

    • says

      I agree with you that work is ministry. But that’s my problem. It seems that most of the examples of people in Scripture left their “work” to devote themselves full time to “teaching.” It bothers me. Why are they the ones that get all the attention in Scripture?

      • says

        Maybe in a time of no printing press, no www, no TV, and no newspaper teaching was a different kind of significant than it is today. I don’t know, but I’m trying to contextualize the era in which most of scripture was written. Teaching the will of God and directing the path of entire communities would have been an arduous life of changing hearts in a land void of “freedom of speech”, mass transportation, and a cornucopia of cultural diversity.

        “Teaching” during biblical times seems like much harder work than any of us can fathom today.

        Maybe your quandary is of a subjective basis rather than an objective one.

        • says

          Bonar,
          You are right. Jesus, for example, was a Jewish Rabbi. Some Rabbis had jobs, but many of them were supported by the community to teach 4-5 times per week in the synagogue, and also go around and help people, provide counsel, etc. They were kind-of a cross between a pastor, a lawyer, and a doctor. That would be a full-time job.

  3. says

    Jeremy,

    In Scripture, we only have a very limited view of what some of the people living at that did. For example, we see both Philip and Stephen proclaiming the gospel and teaching the church, but we don’t know what they did at other times. Paul praises the Thessalonian believers because they had spread the gospel around their region. Do we assume that none of them worked?

    To me, the most obvious passage related to this question is found at the end of Acts 20. We generally focus on the first part of the passage, where Paul instructs the elders from Ephesus to shepherd the people. But, we tend to jump over the end of that passage, where Paul also instructs them to work hard with their hands (like he did while he was in Ephesus) so that they can support themselves and have enough to care for those in need.

    -Alan

  4. says

    Yeah, I think Alan’s right. Paul’s example is one to consider. He was the big name traveling evangelist. Yet he worked to support himself to be an example to others.

    No, Paul likely wasn’t married with kids. But in your questions can you cancel that out with the fact he was often on the road?

    If Paul would have been called to serve and stay in a specific town he may have been able to fit all your criteria.

    With Paul’s example, I can only imagine there were also many leaders within each community of believers who carried on being great leaders while living a normal life. This normal life is maybe why they didn’t get mentioned. I suspect there were thousands of disciple-making Christ followers (leaders/teachers) who fit your criteria. Based on the rate that the early church grew, I suspect most believers were disciple makers, and in some sense a leaders/teachers . And most of them likely worked with their hands to earn their way.

    Hope that helps some. God bless!

    • says

      Jon,
      Good point. There were undoubtedly thousands of Christians who balanced it all.

      I often struggle finding the time to fit it all in. I’m sure we all do. But such is life.

  5. says

    Jeremy,

    As I’ve been thinking about this, I realize that part of the problem may be how we’re defining “teaching.” In Scripture, teaching includes time of directed, formal learning, but it seems that this type of teaching is not the primary kind. Instead, teaching occurs whenever believers are together, including when many are gathered together, but also when two or three are together. This could occur when talking about life in general, not just when expositing a certain passage of Scripture. Perhaps, even, our exposition of Scripture is ineffective (or at least less effective) if it is not in the context of the more informal, life-type of teaching. What do you think?

    -Alan

    • says

      Alan, I think you are definitely right. Teaching is more than just a person standing up front giving a lecture, and is also more than what we say with our mouths.

      What it all boils down to is my struggle to find time to “do it all.”

      Maybe a better question for this post would have been “Would Jesus blog?” or maybe “Would Jesus Tweet?” or “Would Jesus be on Facebook?”

      I definitely know that my job and spending time with my wife and kids is ministry and there is lots of teaching go on there, but I also feel an urge to write and blog. But there is not time to do it all.

  6. says

    Yes, Alan that’s what I was thinking. If we are going to look for someone in the NT who saw their primary job as preparing and giving lecture styled teaching lessons. I’m not sure if any existed. If we broaden our definition of teaching to include teaching by example, mentoring, living life together… apprenticeship style… it is easier to imagine these people doing so with regular day jobs as well.

  7. mands81 says

    Hey there,replying to your previous comment.I sometimes forget about vast cultrural differences.So the South African context of a 9 -5 job is that this lulls people into false sense of security and entrepeneurship is rare.Do you get it now?I know very talented people who are working 9-5 jobs because the pressure of going against the grain would make it seem as if you are being irresponisible.I’m not talking about “ministry” I’m talking about day to day life of conforming to others standards which might necessarily be scriptural…

    • says

      Yes, the cultural differences are vast. It is easy for us here in the US to forget that also. So how do people make a living if they do not work a regular “9-5 job”?

  8. mands81 says

    Well my husband works here in spain as a singer and its not 9 to 5.My critism is not at people working 9 to 5 jobs but at the whole system of 9 to 5 jobs.Having a 9 to 5 job also becomes a status symbol in South Africa cause a job means money,money immediately means a better standard of material living.Its very frustrating actually.There are many creative options as a way of earning a living.Again,to reitterate,its the system that gets me mad,institutionilisation of peoples lives for money…

    • says

      Yes, I see what you are saying. My wife doesn’t work so she can stay home with our children. We make sacrifices in our standard of living as a result, but believe it is worth it. But it crazy how people look at her like she’s a lunatic for not going and getting a job. They say, “Well, I would love to stay home with my kids too, but then how would we pay for our house, and go on the vacation?” Yes, the system gets me upset also.

  9. Mands81 says

    To all who are leaving comments.Thanx for challenging my thinking,im learning lots from u guys.Where are all the ladies though?hehehe.I’m a stay at home mom too Jeremy.

  10. says

    Hi Mands, I get what you mean by the institutionalization of people’s lives by the 9 to 5 mindset. I’m a full-time blogger/new business owner and part-time ballroom dance instructor now. When I lost my executive speechwriting job in late 2009, there was immense pressure I put on myself and felt from friends and family to find a job and become a valid, productive member of society again—as if my worth depended on a salary and title. I did the dutiful, expected thing, applying, interviewing, getting rejected, job-hunting as my full-time job.

    What I’ve learned since then is that God has given us so much more potential than we will ever realize or utilize if we plod through the years at a secure but soul-killing job, just waiting to retire. If I had not lost my job I would never have quit, but then I would never have discovered that I’m actually good at photography, clothing design and a different style of writing than I’d been able to use on the job.

    I struggled to not feel guilty that I’m “staying home” but my three daughters are adults. There is no category for those who aren’t stay-at-home blogger moms. Then my youngest pointed out that I earned this phase of life, this luxury of time to focus on what makes me happy, fulfilled and surprised by new things I learn.

    • says

      That is a great story. So you are a blogger-dance-instructor-photographer-mom? That’s what work is starting to look like here in the States. Keep enjoying what you do!

  11. Hennie says

    What do we make of Mat 6:30-34 6:30 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? 6:31 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 6:32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 6:33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 6:34 So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.

    How are we different from the world?

    • says

      Hennie,

      That is a tough passage. I am often very jealous of the birds.

      Are you saying though that we should not work, and just go out and love people like Jesus, and wait for food to fall into our lap?

      I’m not sure even Jesus did that. It appears he had patrons.

      • Hennie says

        I ask because I am not sure. Note this was Jesus talking, not a disiple or Apostle.
        My experience is that the moment we work for an employer or contract to do something we made a commitment and we need to focus to keep our promise to the man that pay us…it is very difficult to keep your mind on heavenly things as commanded in Col 3:2. Before I know it, 3 hours has past with out me thinking of my Savior. Is that okay if we put Him on hold to persue another task? Is the work in the flesh while my spirit man is still in obedience with God. Is the reason we work not to satisfy the flesh and worldly desires for our family. We spend hours on working to provide the best education for our kids and they get so caught up with mainstream and liberal thinking in the proses that they do not want to think of the rapture….no, no, why did we study so hard, I want to marry first and have kids and make some money to buy nice things. So I feel by working hard and giving them the oppertunity, I was pulling them of the narrow road. We as the bride must be ready for the Bridegroom when He come, which could be any moment and He told us that when He comes He wants to find us busy with our Fathers work. I see Jesus had the dissiples quit from there work and He never send them back to work for pay.

        I honestly do not know but just try to make sense of what am I to do according to His word.

        • says

          Hennie,

          Really great question.

          Paul writes that when we work for an employer, we can view it as if we were working for the Lord, and not for men (Col 3:23; Eph 6:7). That is how we are to view our work, as it is a blessing from God.

          So even though you may not think about Jesus much during your day, that is okay. Just try to remember that as you go about your day, and as you obey your boss, and work with honesty and cheerfulness, whether you think about Jesus or not, you are being a testimony and witness to Jesus.

          This is one of the best ways to be prepared for Jesus when He returns.

          • Hennie says

            I like your reply.
            If I look back over my life, and I am not a new born Christain, it seems that most of my growth in my walk came when I was in need for a job, while growth slowed down when I were making good money and enjoyed my work.
            I have been out of work for more than six months but I learned more during this time than the last 5 years before that and I found I do not have to follow the news or watch any TV.
            I have no idea where I will find income to pay rent or get gas money to drive to the store to buy food with foodstamps but I have peace that do not make sense to other like my kids, for I know God knows. He helped me for 60+ yrs and call me His son, why will He not continue to provide? The kids who live in sin with their boyfriends is more worried than me.
            Back to the topic of work. I applied for so many jobs, I cannot keep trac any more. When they contact me most of the time I have to do research on who this employer is and what the job entitled. I get the feeling He does not want me to go back to work again. How I will pay the bills and support the family I do not know. Most of the people around me do not have a relationship with God but they seems okay for they go to work everyday while I do not.
            So the Kings son do not have a job? As long as I belong it is good enough…this is just temp.
            One last thing in 2 Tim 2:4 Paul teach not to do other work if you signup for God’s army. Only ministers? Are we not all in ministry when we are sons of God?

  12. says

    Hennie,
    Yes, it is very difficul to find work right now. I hope and pray that you find a job. About four years ago, I was looking for a job too, and sent out over 100 applications. It sounds like you may have sent more than that. Keep searching!

    Regarding 2 Tim 2:4, I would apply the same idea as what Paul said in Colossians and Ephesians. When we join “God’s army” we are full-time soldiers in it, no matter what work we are doing. So a lawyer is a lawyer in God’s army. A nurse is a nurse in God’s army. A janitor is a janitor in God’s army.

  13. Juan says

    Hello , Sorry for my english.
    I read, that you WISH that someone in the bible was successful , and that had a job and kids.
    The truth is that , being successful in this world , is literally like serving satan. That why in the bible it says that he is the god of this age.
    When we believe in god , we are suppose to believe in him, that he will give us everything we need by FAITH.
    You CANNOT serve God and Money.
    That why in the bible it also says that we should not love the world , or we cannot follow him.
    Why does he says that?
    It is easy.
    Just look around you, everything you see , EVERYTHING even your self and your family, will all be dust in 100,000 years.
    We are completely impermanent we came from dust , to dust we must return.
    But our life( soul , consciousness) that is the living life god gave us that is the ONLY thing that is not impermanent. Well only if god wish to destroy your soul then is over. thats the second death bible talks about.
    So by working , and being fearful in every aspect no matter what of our life. We serve satan.
    We serve god , by BELIEVING and having Faith. but the most important thing , the one we are nothing without is…. COMPASSION.
    That is why also BUDDHA ( a normal person born 500 years before christ. he was completely real. He was born in a kingdom , and he was not happy so he decided he will find the answer to pain. SO he left everything he had, even his son and his wife.
    and go for his search, and realized that by just leaving with the grace of having faith with god he didn’t need anything and he , could do miracles like JESUS , and they both said the same things. the same teachings.
    Buddha also said that a PRINCE will come later to teach the same as him , but that he was HOLY. that was jesus,
    Jesus said he came to fulfill the words of prophets not to denied them.
    And also jesus said that we all could do miracles like him if we only BELIEVE.
    he said that we could make a mountain throw it self to the ocean if we believe it with all our hearts.
    Also jesus said a son of man will come , A man he would send that will do miracles like him, and even better and more and he will tell us even more truth, truth jesus couldn’t tell in the past because they where to much ignorant to understand and he said hat himself. That he would love to tell us much things but he couldn’t , but that the son of man , who will find the secret like buddha and Jesus will also do the same things . And he will honor Jesus with all his heart. That all on the bible.

    If you have fear , is because you have LITTLE FAITH.

    God bless you.

    • says

      Juan,
      I definitely wasn’t defining success the way the world does, but the way the Bible does. Do you know of a father in the Bible who was successful by biblical standards?

  14. Juan says

    OHHH one more thing.
    Super important to know.

    The root , of ALL our pain , and sadness is our DREAMS. and DESIRES.
    Every time you get angry or sad, look at your self first before judging and you will find the answer and se what am I talking about.

    You have to AUTO REALIZE the truth. so your faith will go up to the infinite.
    Jesus came to show the way , to show the DOOR. but it is you the ONE who has to walk it.

    But for those that is to difficult to leave everything , jesus also gives eternal life for those that simply BELIEVE in him. See how god love us? Extreme right :)

    If you find the secret your self , you could do the same miracles as jesus , you could fly , go trough walls , everything you can imagine. But first you must be REBORN from LIGHT.
    thats why we bauptize but that is just symbolic. When you truly reborn , you will know everything because you will be ONE with god.
    And we are already one with GOD. You are in me , I am in you , We are in God and god is in us.
    bLESSINGS TO ALL.

  15. Enolyn Rugh says

    Hey, there are many scriptures int he bible that teach on the benefits of having a job and working. It is the will of God to work. What comes to mine is God himself who worked for 6 days and rested on the 7th. They became a commandment for his people, to work 6 and rest on 7. Also, Adam who was the first man to be given a job by God. He was to dress and keep the Gardent. Then Abraham worked… Jacob was a keen business man and worked. Joseph worked and got promoted. Work and Labour appears many time in the scriptures. And Paul in 2 Thess.3 mentioned that he worked amongst the people to show them an example of earning thier keep. He reminded them that if a man does not work, he does not eat. I encourage you that your life can be easy, because Jesus said so. He said take his yoke upon him and learn of hime for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Submit to God and your burden will be lifted.

  16. Brother C says

    Jeremy,
    Balancing the cares of this world and ministry is a challenge for sure.
    The devil is always trying to rob of us of time, resources and our peace.
    Perhaps, Jesus said it best when He described the whole duty of man…
    To simply Love God and each other with all of our being.
    Taking up our cross daily is a serious commitment, but He also said:
    “My yoke is easy & burden light. Come and I will give you rest.”
    Sometimes we carry more than we should.
    I hope and pray that you will find joy and peace in His presence,
    moment by moment. He will never leave or forsake you.
    The joy of The Lord is your strength. Rejoice!
    And again I say… Rejoice!
    See you in Heaven :)

  17. Peter says

    Fully understanding that these posts are old… Jeremy, I think some of what you are considering is cultural. I think what you are “wishing” for is actually the norm in Scripture. It is so normal that it is not necessarily mentioned in the way you would like.

    You may want to look at the “Minor” Prophets. Most of these twelve prophets had secular jobs, a family, and ministry. Amos, per example, seemed to have *two* secular jobs, which he was able to juggle with the ministry (Amos 1:1; 7:14). It is not stated clearly (if memory serves me well) whether he had a family, but it is most likely that he did.

    It is true that Jesus and his followers had some financial backing (Luke 8:3) from kind donors He had previously ministered to, but we also do see some instances of Jesus “working” to provide for his disciples and Himself. We see Him “helping” with fishing; we see Him “arranging” for income with which to pay taxes; we see Him providing food for His rather large audience (at least two times). Understanding that we are dealing with the God-Man, we need to see “work” in light of who He is….

    The apostles (“sent ones”) are not really a good example of what you are looking for, Jeremy, because they had a very specific mission given to them that never existed before and never will occur again. To fulfill their mission, they did whatever it took. This included receiving gifts from God’s people in order to sustain themselves, or roll up their sleeves and work in secular employment — whatever it took in order to fulfill their mission. It seems that the apostles traveled each with his wife, and possibly children (1 Cor. 9:15). So, although they may not be the perfect example given their unique situation, they obviously juggled ministry, family and some times secular employment.

    The elders of local churches are a good reference point in the New Testament. In the New Testament, the words elders, pastors, bishops (overseers, superintendents), and presbyters are all synonymous and refer to the same thing. That we can tell, they all had secular jobs, families and of course ministry. The book, “Biblical Eldership,” by Alex Strauch, is a very thorough book on the topic of Scriptural ministers of the Lord, and gives a terrific background of what it was like to be an elder/pastor in New Testament times. Another interesting book is “The Bivocational Pastor,” by Luther M. Dorr.

    It would be interesting to see posts from believers of nations which culture do not have a British or northern European heritage. In such nations, as in the early Church, the bivocational minister is normative, and a fully paid, full-time minister is rare and sometimes even seen as absurd.

    I serve the Lord as a missionary to Portugal. Here in Portugal I am the “weird one” among God’s servants because I do not hold a secular job. Most pastors/elders and even deacons, etc., have secular jobs. Looking with admiration at my bivocational brothers, I take my time very seriously and work hard to make sure I am using most of my time for His service… if for nothing else to justify not being bivocational. I see my ability to be full-time in ministry as a gift from the Lord, and I want His Kingdom to benefit from my freedom and flexibility. I guess I have put myself in chains, so to speak, for His glory.

    In the US, where I am from, there is definitely an issue — a problem — of mentality in regards to how believers view money and lifestyle. I believe much of the Lord’s work in the US is affected negatively because God’s people there have redefined “sacrifice” and priorities. The modern “American” lifestyle has become a god for many believers, ministers included. It would be interesting to see a dialogue of posts between believers of poorer nations with believers of richer nations on these topics. (What does it mean to give “quality time” to your family vs. giving “quality time” to your local church?)

    One example. Americans and Canadians have elevated family to proportions well beyond the Scriptures. Just how important is family in comparison with serving the Lord in His church? Martin Luther’s well-known hymn proclaims “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.” Jesus said that one must “hate” his family in order to be His disciple (Luke 14:26), and in another place He said that He brought a sword to divide families (Mat. 10:34-37). These are difficult verses for us North Americans. Yet we see believers in other countries taking these verses to heart and the Kingdom of God grows exponentially there.

    So, Jeremy, wishing the Scriptures had something it doesn’t necessarily have might mean you are off track. By this I mean that you are looking at the Scriptures through tinted glasses of your culture. Taking off those glasses (cultural presuppositions), I think you will easily find what you are looking for. Maybe our perspective of what the limits or boundaries are in respect to our families and jobs need to change in light of the Scripture. Think about this: in New Testament times — especially for Jewish believers — Sunday was like Monday to us today. In other words, people had to go to church *after* their usual work day. Believers worked for 6 days, often much more than 8 hours per day (as in many countries today), cared for their families, and still were able to evangelize and serve their local churches — sometimes on a daily basis. Although we Americans would consider this hard and inhumane, the Early Church was marked with joy!

    What I am hoping to accomplish with this post is simply suggest that a big part of your question is culturally based. You are on the right track to look in the Scriptures for answers. The big question is whether we are ready to allow the Lord, through the Scriptures, to change certain elements of our cultural worldview.

    • says

      I definitely agree that I read the Bible through culturally-colored glasses. But which of us do not? It was even written with culturally-colored ink!

      Anyway, I think I have written some posts later on in my blog about what you say, that the prophets worked “secular” jobs (and the priests as well) to provide for their families.

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