Have you ever wondered how Jesus performed as a carpenter? Many questions come to mind about the relatively unknown period of time when Jesus worked as a tradesman. Was he an average worker filling his time to earn a living? Did he cut any corners? What was the quality of his work? Did his customers trust him and his work? Was he a high performer?
In today’s global marketplace, what kind of employee would Jesus be? Answering this question will provide guidance on how each one of us should perform in our vocations. There are three principles we can learn from Jesus’ life as a carpenter.
The first principle is that Jesus was a man of integrity in everything he did. Jesus would not and could not compromise his integrity as he was the Son of God. This means that as he performed his work, Jesus maintained high quality and high performance in everything he did. Customers and employers would not be cheated by shoddy work from Jesus. He could be trusted to do the job well and deliver quality work.
Can the same be said about our work? Do our customers, peers, suppliers, and leaders trust us? Do they believe we will deliver results with quality and high performance? They should. As followers of Christ, we are expected to walk in integrity in everything we do. According to author and economist, Anna Bernasek, “Integrity is so critical to our economic performance that it can explain disparities in national wealth.”[i] There is real value in having integrity, including economic value.
The second principle is that Jesus understood that work had value with purpose and meaning. Jesus, as a member of the Trinity, created the biblical worldview of work. God designed work for our pleasure and our growth. According to Genesis 2:15, work came before man fell into sin. Bill Heatley. IT Director at Kaiser Permanente, writes, “From the beginning, work and care have been bonded together under God. The loving nature of God can be seen in its unblemished beginning. In their tending of the garden, Adam and Eve would find purpose and fulfillment.”[ii]
God expects us to work because he knows there is purpose and fulfillment in it because that’s the way he designed it. Theologian and Professor David Jensen writes, “Work, as vocation, is fulfilling not because it enriches oneself (though it may), but because of its obedient response to the creator. The value of vocation is not self-referential, but in rendering one’s work to God, in all components of one’s life.”[iii]
Jesus knew his work had purpose and meaning. What purpose is found in your work? Baristas at Starbucks serve hot and cold drinks to enable customers to enjoy the “Starbucks Experience.” Financial planners exist to build wealth and security for their customers. Understand the purpose of your job and then pray that God will reveal his broader purpose for your current position.
The third principle we can learn from Jesus as an employee is that God expects us to perform at our best in everything we do. Since Jesus is God, he must have lived out this principle as a carpenter. The Bible tells us that whatever is in our hand, do with all our strength [iv] This means whether you are a steel worker, police officer, accountant, soldier, lawyer, manufacturer, business owner, executive, etc., you are to perform your work to the best of your ability. Skill development, education, benchmarking, networking, and experience are just some of the tools to increase your performance.
The Apostle Paul gives us another reason why we should perform our best. In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul writes that we should work as unto the Lord and not unto men…[v] Our performance should be a form of worship to the Lord. Our tasks should reflect our love of Christ. Christians should be some of the best performers in their field simply because they strive to work for the Lord.
We spend approximately thirty percent of our entire lives working, some much more than that. We need to adopt the biblical worldview of work. As an employee, Jesus worked according to this worldview. When we understand that we should not separate our spiritual life from our work life, we will begin to transform what we do into something that pleases God.
Jesus did not choose clergy to become his disciples. He chose the working class --fishermen, tax collectors, accountants and the like. He wants our faith to be relevant in our everyday lives so that whatever our job may be, we can thrive in our role because we have submitted our employment to God. When we live out our faith on the job, there are no limits to the impact Christians can have in the marketplace.
Gary Blackard is Vice-president of Client Operations for the Xerox Corporation and has over two decades of experience working with Fortune 100 companies across the globe. He is the founder of Eagle Peak Leadership, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping business leaders in the U.S. and abroad integrate faith into their workplace. He is author of the new book, Relevance in the Workplace: Using the Bible to impact your job. Blackard’s website is www.eaglepeak.org.
[i] Anna Bernasek, The Economics of Integrity (New York: Harper Collins, 2010), 14.
[ii] Bill Heatley, The Gift of Work (Colorado Springs: NavPress Publishing, 2008), 27.
[iii] David Jensen, Responsive Labor: A Theology of Work (Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006) 36.
[iv] Ecclesiastes 9:10
[v] Colossians 3:23