We often focus exclusively on the Jesus of the cross or the Jesus of the preaching ministry. What about Jesus the carpenter? Not that we want to or could ever ignore the depth of His teaching and the magnitude of His sacrifice, but is there something we can learn from His work with wood? Let’s talk about the plow, the cross and bi-vocational church planting.
Even though the Gospels don’t tell us anything about his work as a carpenter, it is assumed that Jesus learned the trade of his adopted, earthly father, Joseph. Was the Jesus of the carpentry shop the same Jesus of rhetorical genius, profound human insight, God incarnate?
Early during my time at seminary, my missions professor mentioned a column from Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint ministry about a reference to plows made by Jesus during his time as a carpenter.
Justin Martyr, a second-century church father, said that during his lifetime it was common to see people in Galilee using plows that were actually made by Jesus. Those plows would have been around 100 years old, but were of such good quality that they still could be used to break up soil.
The column reminds us that Jesus, along with all His “significant, spiritual” work, did “dull, average” work. Apparently, if his wooden plows were used for 100 years, He poured as much of Himself into making a plow as He did in restoring sight to the blind. How can we then view everyday work as something devoid of spiritual implications?
When I heard about Jesus’ plow I thought about His desire for excellency in everything that we do—how every activity should be done “for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:17). Jesus worked hard to make plows that would last 100 years—for the glory of God. How does the Christian then, who claims to follow this Jesus, put forth as little effort as possible—for the glory of God?
Why don’t we strive for excellency in all we do? Why are we content to let the world pass us by in terms of technology, the arts, communication or anything else. Should we not be passionate about creating “plows” that will stand the test of time? Should we not be consumed with a desire to do everything as well as it can possibly be done because that will be a reflection of God?
This is a lesson I try to take with me to my current job. While I am in seminary during the day, I load packages in transfer trucks for a national shipping company at night. When someone sees me working or walks past a wall of boxes I have just loaded, do they see Jesus in that?
I really have no idea what happened with the plows that Christ the carpenter made, but it would not surprise me if one day we meet someone in Heaven who came to know the Jesus of the cross after being impressed by the Jesus of the plow.
I can see them asking someone, “Who made this plow? I’ve never seen a plow that would last for 100 years.” To which the Christian would respond, “Oh, that was made by Jesus. Let me tell you about Him.”
Can anyone see Christ in the work you do? What you do may be the most mundane, boring, senseless job, but people should still be able to see the Christ of your job. You’ve given your life to the Jesus of the cross, have you given your work and your ministry to the Jesus of the plow?