Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Earthly Occupation of Christ

Leslie Basham: Are you facing some menial tasks today? Nancy Leigh DeMoss encourages you to tackle them for God’s glory.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Work is a good thing done to the glory of God. It predates the Fall. Did you know that? Work isn’t just a consequence of the Fall. In Genesis 2:15, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to keep it.”

Work is a great thing; it’s a beautiful thing done for the glory of God. It’s an assignment from God to glorify Him here on this earth.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for February 26, 2015.

What did Jesus do in the years leading up to His public ministry around the age of thirty? Nancy Leigh DeMoss is about to address that question.

Nancy: We’re looking at the incomparable Christ. How there is no one like Jesus—not even close—and we’re following, as a track during these forty days or so leading up to the Passion Week of Christ and Easter, a book called The Incomparable Christ by Oswald Sanders.

We’re just dwelling and meditating on different aspects of the life and ministry of Christ, and I hope that it’s been an encouragement thus far to you. We have a long way to go still in His life, but we’re taking our time and just meditating on Him and letting Him fill our minds with great big thoughts about Himself.

Yesterday we left Jesus at age twelve in the temple. There’s nothing more recorded in the Scripture about His life until He’s around the age of thirty. So a question is: What was He doing during all those years?

When He was in the temple at age twelve, He said He must be about His Father’s business. So a question I would ask is: Was He doing His Father’s business during those next eighteen “silent years,” or were those maybe just meaningless, “wasted years”? Was He just in limbo from twelve to thirty, waiting until it was time to come out in public and start doing His Father’s business?

Was He doing His Father’s business at twelve? Was He doing it at fifteen? Was He doing it at seventeen? Was He doing it at twenty-two? Or did He just start doing it at thirty when He came out into public ministry?

Well, let me just say first of all that God doesn’t waste anything. He doesn’t waste time. He doesn’t waste the lives of His children. And I would suggest that Jesus was no less engaged in His Father’s business, doing His Father’s will, during those eighteen years from twelve to thirty than He was during His three years of public ministry. He was engaged in His Father’s business during all those years.

Now, Scripture draws a curtain over those years, those eighteen years, telling us nothing except for the fact that Jesus worked in Joseph’s carpentry business. In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6, we see how Jesus was known. This was written during His public ministry, but those who were watching His miracles said, “How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And they took offense at him (Mark 6:3). “Is this not the carpenter?” That’s how he was known—the carpenter.

In the parallel passage in Matthew 13, it says, ““Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (v. 55) That’s how He was known. He’s the carpenter’s son.

Now in the ancient Jewish culture, fathers were expected to teach their sons a trade. The idea behind the word carpenter, by the way, is not just one who works with wood, but it’s a builder. He was a contractor—perhaps built houses. One commentary said He probably worked more with stone than with wood because the stone would have been common in houses in those days. But likely, Jesus worked in His earthly father’s construction business.

When people called Him “the carpenter,” this was not intended as a compliment. This was a disparaging remark, a put-down. It’s like, “How could He do all these miracles? He’s just a carpenter. He’s the carpenter’s son.” He didn’t have any formal theological training. He was just a carpenter.

Well, knowing that Jesus was known this way, I think says something about the humility of Christ. We’ll see that all through Christ’s life—the condescension of Christ, “who made himself of no reputation . . . He humbled himself," Philippians 2:7-8 tells us (nkjv)

That’s part of it. He left heaven and came to earth to be known as the carpenter. "He’s just the carpenter’s son.” Elsewhere in Scripture there are many other titles for Jesus, and they’re lofty titles; they’re amazing titles. He’s the Lord of glory. He’s the Ancient of Days, the Lord of hosts, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Savior, the Son of God.

But during those young adult years of His life, Jesus was known as simply “the carpenter” or “the carpenter’s son.”

In the book The Incomparable Christ that we’re using as a reference during this series by Oswald Sanders, Sanders points out that of all the possible occupations God could have chosen for His Son, He ordained that Jesus would be a tradesman, a common working man, working with His hands.

He could have had a more impressive job. He could have had a white-collar job. He could have had a political position. Instead, He worked hard as a laborer. Sanders says it must have made the angels wonder—the angels who had lived with Jesus, the glorious Son of God, who is God Himself, who always was with God, the Creator of the world—that He would come down to earth and not only be born in a cattle shed, not only become an infant and a toddler, and a three-year-old and a six-year-old and a seven-year-old and learn his alphabet and do all the things He had to do in the way of normal development; but then that He would grow up and become a tradesman, a manual laborer, to work with His hands. It must have made the angels wonder.

But seeing that Jesus was a carpenter—He worked with His hands; He was a tradesman; He was a working Man—reminds us of the nobility and the sacredness of work done to the glory of God . . . any kind of work done to the glory of God. He sanctified work, so to speak, including manual labor or what some would call perhaps “menial work.”

That’s got to be encouraging to those of us who have any aspect of our life that involves menial work. Anybody here have menial tasks that you have responsibilities for? We talk about how wonderful it is to be a mom, for example, but there are a lot about being a mom that is anything but glamorous. Right?

I’ve got a young couple with a new baby living in my house. They’re very excited about this baby. They love this baby, but there’s a lot of just grunt work involved in being a mom. Right? Changing diapers and other tasks of our lives. You say, “Yes, but Nancy DeMoss, she has this incredible job.”

I have people come up to me and say, “I want to do what you do.” Well, what they mean is they want to do the part of what I do that they can see, that they think would be fun. But what they don’t know is all the long hours, the digging, having a blank computer screen while I’m trying to write a book thinking, I have no clue what to say, and laboring and going through travail.

You have that in your job, in your calling, whatever it is, and in your spiritual vocation. Jesus sanctified work, hard work, manual work, grunt work, mundane work, routine work done to the glory of God.

He glorified His Father in heaven by working with His hands through all those years, perhaps supporting His mother and His other family members after Joseph died, which many think is likely.

You see, Jesus, in being a worker, in being a carpenter . . . He didn’t just go from twelve to being a Rabbi, to doing miracles and teaching. He had those years of working in His father’s construction business. We see Him affirming what the rest of Scripture says about work.

Work is a good thing done to the glory of God. It predates the Fall. Did you know that? Work isn’t just a consequence of the Fall. In Genesis 2:15, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to keep it.”

Work is a great thing; it’s a beautiful thing done for the glory of God. It’s an assignment from God to glorify Him here on this earth. And Jesus was doing that with carpentry or construction. You do it, and I do it, in other ways, but it’s a sanctified thing.

First Thessalonians chapter 4:

We urge you, brothers . . . to aspire to live quietly . . . and to work with your hands . . . so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one (vv. 10–12).

I have several friend with whom I exchange weekly email prayer requests. Several of us are writers and speakers. Our prayer requests often center around something that we're working on, a project, or a deadline. One of the women in our group wrote on this week's prayer email update, "I'm not a speaker. I'm not a writer. I'm not doing anything exciting to put down as a prayer request, but I'm seeking to live quietly and to work with my hands."

She's a wife; she's a mom; she's caring for her home; she's serving people in the context of her local church. I'm going, "Yes, for the glory of God, do it!" That's a high and holy calling. My calling, doing teaching, doing radio, writing books, is no higher or holier than your calling, caring for your home, working in your work environment. If it's God's calling, then it is for the glory of God. It's holy, and it is exalted.

Second Thessalonians chapter 3, Paul says:

We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor [this is the apostle Paul] we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. . . . [We gave you] this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living (vv. 7–12).

You do it without making a big deal about it. You just do it because it’s your calling. You don’t do it grudgingly. You don’t do it hoping that everybody will notice what a great worker you are and give you pats on the back or applause. You do it for the glory of God and for Christ’s sake. Jesus modeled that.

Acts chapter 20, Paul says: “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.” What was Paul’s work? Tent making. He’s traveling; he’s starting churches; he’s writing Epistles, but he’s earning a living while he’s doing that. He says:

In all things I have shown you that by working hard [working hard—work’s not supposed to be easy; it’s hard—working hard] in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:34–35).

We’re working not to receive, ultimately, but to have so we can give to others.

First Timothy chapter 5, verse 8:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Jesus had always been working. He did just start working when He got to His father’s carpentry shop. He had always been working with His heavenly Father. We saw that earlier in this series in Proverbs 8: “When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman” (vv. 29–30).

Jesus said in John chapter 5: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (v. 17). He was always working—working with His Father, working with His hands, working to fulfill His Father’s will.

The point is that during these years from twelve to thirty, where Scripture tells us really nothing except that He became known as the carpenter, he was not idle. He was not slothful. He was not just hanging out until it was time to get into public ministry. He demonstrates the honor of doing productive work for the glory of God.

As Oswald Sanders says in this book, “If it was not beneath the Son of God to work as an artisan, then surely it is beneath none of His children” (p. 70).

Jesus was born into a poor, working class family. Working was not an option for that family. But by working hard, Jesus partook of our humanity. He identified Himself with common working people. By experiencing the tedium, the challenges, the laboriousness of hard work, He bore the curse placed on Adam, that he would eat bread by the sweat of his brow. That was part of Him bearing the curse of the Fall.

The problem is that we view significance and worth differently than God does. We tend to measure the value of what we do in terms of visibility, scope—how big it is, how grand it is, how impressive it is, the impact it makes on others. God doesn’t measure that way.

God’s not really impressed with how many people listen to this program or how many people read my books. What He wants to know is: Am I faithful at my work? Am I obedient in doing whatever tasks He has given me to do that day?

You see, in the will of God, obscure common labor is no less glorifying to God, no less significant, no less necessary than more public types of ministry, more impressive ministry acts or achievements. Having direct ministry into the lives of people is no more impressive, it’s no more valuable to God than you washing dishes, if that’s your calling at a particular moment of the day, or doing laundry or doing some other mundane, tedious task. It’s all for the glory of God, and that’s what makes it noble.

The fact that Jesus spent so many years doing work that many would not consider noble or inspiring, should encourage us to be faithful in carrying out the routine, ordinary, obscure tasks of our lives, and to do them faithfully and joyfully—even though no one else may see or applaud the work we are doing. We’re not doing it for man. Right? Who are we doing it for? The Lord. We are doing it as unto Him.

So we see that Jesus spent most of His adult life working in a physical trade, and only three years in public ministry. Those earlier years were not world-shaking, as we would measure, but they were vital preparation for His public ministry.

So I would just encourage you to let God determine the nature and the extent of your service in each season of life. Let Him give you your job description, and then do it for the glory of God. And don’t be in a hurry for broader, more visible ministry.

I have women come up to me, young moms . . . “I want to be in ministry.” I’m going to myself, “What do you think you’re in? You’ve got that two-year-old and that five-year-old. That’s not ministry? You have full-time ministry. You are in full-time ministry shaping and molding those young lives.”

You say, “Well, God hasn’t blessed me with children. I’m working in this office in an administrative position.” Then do it for the glory of God and realize that is ministry. Doing your vocation to the will of God is what glorifies God and reflects His glory in this world.

If God has put it in your heart to serve Him in other ways, don’t be in a hurry. Realize that God is preparing you. He’s seasoning you. Wait for His timing. You will be more effective in the long run if you will let God give you whatever ministry He wants you to have rather than pursuing or aspiring to have more ministry. God has given you and me as much ministry at this moment as what He has equipped us to handle. So fulfill it. Fulfill it with joy.

I want to touch in the remaining moments here one other aspect of Jesus’ young adult life that we don’t often hear mentioned, and that’s the fact that He remained for all of His earthly life, single. Think about that with me for a few minutes here.

Jesus never experienced the companionship of a wife. Through all of the challenges of work and ministry, through all His testings and trials, He never knew the comfort, the encouragement, and support that having a mate might have provided. Furthermore, He never knew the blessing of having children of His own. The children He loved were other people’s children.

You say, “Well, He was God, so He didn’t need marriage; He didn’t need children.” Well, the fact is He was also fully human. He was a man. He had normal, human desires and longings. Scripture reminds us that in every respect, He was “tempted as we are” (Heb. 4:15). Yet He was without sin.

As we look at Jesus, we have to assume that He had natural human longings, but He did not make idols out of His longings. He did not allow His natural desires to become demands. We know that He went to weddings. We know that He went to parties, to dinners, to feasts. We know that He saw His friends and His peers enjoying first the gift of marriage and then the gift of children. But we also know that He never gave in to self-pity. He never resented God, His heavenly Father, for withholding those gifts from Him.

We know that He remained morally chaste through His young adult years, into His thirties, trusting His Father to meet His needs, even (dare I say it), sexual needs. That may sound a little disrespectful to talk about Jesus with sexual desires. I’ll just say this: I don’t know all the mysteries of this, but I know He was a sexual being.

He was a man, and He trusted His Father to meet all the needs—for companionship, for friendship, for fulfillment of human desires. He did not chafe at His single status, but He fully embraced and delighted in the will and the calling of God for His life and all that it entailed, and for Jesus, that meant being single.

For Jesus embracing God’s calling in His life—singleness—was both an act of submission to the will of the Father, as well as a selfless act of love for those He came to serve—that’s us. He was willing to forfeit many of the normal, good pleasures—holy pleasures—that most people enjoy, in order to redeem us from our sin.

He knew that His life on this earth would be short and that He would have all eternity to savor the fullness of joy and the pleasures to be found at the right hand of His Father. So He could pay the price here. He knew the joy that was set before Him, so He endured. He endured not only the physical cross, the suffering of the crucifixion and all that entailed, but other kinds of crosses along the way, including perhaps this whole area of singleness. Might that have been a cross for Him as it is for some in this room?

Whether you’re single or not, there are times when you just feel so very alone, so needing to have someone enter into your heart and share your deepest needs and longings and for companionship. There are some women who are married, but they are married to husband who doesn't have a heart for the Lord, or you are just not really connecting with each other. I want to say that no matter how great your marriage may be, there are parts of your heart that you can't fully enter into one another's lives.

I found myself within the last few weeks facing some fairly heavy challenges in this ministry. They’re not bad. They’re just hard. And there have been some moments when I felt really, really alone. I wished for someone to carry the burden with me.

Now, let me tell you this: I’m not alone. Not only do I have the Lord, but we have an incredible team, and they do carry the burden in so many ways. But there are nights when they are not there. You are there alone, a single woman, a woman married to an unbelieving husband, carrying some burden alone that no one else can fully enter into with you. There have been moments when I have thought, Where does a leader go to cry? Who carries my burden for me, with me? Who enters that with me?

I think of other Christian leaders. They go home to their mate, and they talk about the things they’re going through and carrying. There have been moments when I’ve thought, Where do I go? Who carries that with me?I’ve been wanting, at moments, just for somebody to really understand.

Now, I’m telling you this not to get you to feel sorry for me. I’m telling you this because I want you to know that in those moments of loneliness and feeling of need, I’m reminded, as I’ve been working on this series, that I have a Savior who understands, who has walked that path before me and walks it with me. He has been there. He is incomparable. There is nobody like Him.

You may be alone in any number of ways—widowed, divorced, maybe God hasn't granted you the blessings of marriage or children, married to a non-believer, maybe you've just moved and you are away from friends and encouragement. Can I just remind you of what Hebrews 12 says? "Consider [Christ] . . . so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (v. 3). For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace . . ." Grace, that's what we need in those moments. "That we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15–16).

So, lonely friend, single sister, struggling mom, let me just encourage you to receive the love of your heavenly Father, to embrace His will and His calling for this (and every) season of your life, let Him sustain you by His grace. Trust Him for those unfulfilled longings. Pour out your life for others.

And remember that this life is oh so short. So set your sights on that Day when every tear will be dried and every hope and longing will be fulfilled as we are united with Christ, our beloved Bridegroom, for all eternity. It’s worth the wait.

Leslie: We’re all listening to those words from Nancy Leigh DeMoss while facing different burdens today. The truths we just heard about Jesus can give each of us an eternal perspective. That teaching is part of a series called "The Incomparable Christ." To hear any programs you may have missed in the series so far, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy envisioned this series when she read a classic book also called The Incomparable Christ. It led her on this valuable biblical study of the life of Jesus.

Nancy: Reading this classic book by Oswald Sanders and then preparing this series has helped me to look at Jesus with fresh eyes. It’s been such a joy to ponder the different aspects of His life that I’d never spent a lot of time focusing on before. There’s so much value in studying the Word of God, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to teach His Word each day on Revive Our Hearts.

A woman named Tracy wrote to tell us how much she appreciates the way we’ve encouraged her to get into God’s Word. She listens to Revive Our Hearts on her way to work, and she calls it “a spiritual vitamin that I need to be a light to the associates I work with and the customers I wait on.” I like that—“a spiritual vitamin.”

Well, Tracy goes on to say, “Thanks for allowing God to use you to minister so that we can have a closer relationship with God and live out His love to others.”

And I’m thankful for the listeners who are used by God to make the program possible. We’re on the air, offering that spiritual vitamin in Tracy’s day, thanks to listeners who generously give to the ministry. 

When you give a gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts this month, we’ll say "thanks" by sending you the book by Oswald Sanders, The Incomparable Christ. It’s the book we’ve been following in our current teaching series. I think it will show you aspects of the life of Christ that you may never have considered before. 

Just as for the book on Christ when you call with your donation of any size. Give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or you can make a donation at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. And along with the book you’ll also get a helpful journal. It will lead you through questions as you read this book and listen to Nancy. It will be a place for you to capture what the Lord is saying to you through the series.

Ask for The Incomparable Christ book and journal when you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959. We’ll send one book and journal set per household. 

Jesus was perfect and didn’t need to show any repentance. So why did He need to be baptized? Nancy will explore the baptism of Jesus tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.