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Jesus the Laborer


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that on an average work day most people spend about 8.7 hours working and 7.7 hours sleeping. The rest of the day is taken up with leisure (2.2 hours), household activities (1.1 hours), eating and drinking (1 hour), caring for others (1.3 hours), and other activities (1.7 hours). Presumably many of the things we might consider spiritual, such as reading the Bible or praying, would fall under the “other” category.

Are we too busy to think about spiritual rest? After all, we have to live in the real world. We have jobs and people who depend upon us. We do not have the luxury of abandoning our ordinary responsibilities to live a life of contemplation.

Notice that before Jesus issued the invitation we read yesterday, He had spent most of His life on earth as a laborer. He was known in His hometown of Nazareth as “the carpenter” (v. 3). Jesus grew up in the home of Joseph, who was also a laborer. It seems likely that Jesus made a living in the same trade until He began His ministry at the age of 30.

The experience of working as a carpenter was part of Jesus’ incarnational mission. He knows the weariness that comes at the end of a long day. He knows both the pleasure and the tedium of work. Importantly, His years spent toiling as a carpenter remind us that ordinary work has dignity and spiritual value. The time we spend at work is not empty time. Though we may be tempted to think of our workplace as a secular space, it is one of the primary contexts where the Holy Spirit shapes us and teaches us how to live for God.

Apply the Word

The people of Jesus’ hometown were so used to seeing Him as a carpenter that they resisted His claim to be Israel’s Messiah. We may suffer from a similar lack of perception when it comes to our work. God is present in all of it. Ask Him to reveal how He is working in those portions of the day you don’t normally think of as “spiritual.”

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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