The God of Manual Labor

One of the surprising things about Jesus is that He came to us as a manual laborer, an ordinary carpenter. The Greeks would have wanted a philosopher-king; the Romans would have preferred a brave and noble statesman. Interestingly, our Sovereign God came in the garb of an ordinary laborer from the backwaters of Galilee.

In ancient cultures, people had great disdain for ordinary work. They stigmatized manual labor like farming and caring of children as work fit only for servants. The Egyptians wouldn’t eat with ordinary Hebrew shepherds (Gen. 43:32). Pharao’s daughter found Moses in the river and her first mothering instinct was to hire a Hebrew servant to take care of the baby (Exodus 26:10).

It’s almost the same today. Our culture (and salary grading structures) put higher value on knowledge jobs compared to the service industry. Those who sit in boardrooms are deemed more valuable than the data analysts, receptionists, and administrative staff.

The idea that one kind of work is more significant than the other spills over into our personal lives as well. We unconsciously grade the people around us based on the kind of work they do. Those who sit in the presidential table in weddings are the big shots. We want to hangout with important people and take selfies with them. Without meaning to, the valuation metrics we use for our lives are mostly based on work and how much money we make.

The Christian gospel stands in sharp contrast to that. In the Bible, God is depicted as a gardener in the Old Testament and a carpenter in the New Testament. By choosing to be depicted in humble professions, God elevated the dignity of ordinary workers, rank and file employees, and manual laborers to a place of honor.

Let this be an encouragement, a reminder, a rebuke, and a warning for all of us. Those who think their jobs are too ordinary can find encouragement in the fact that Jesus wasn’t afraid to be associated with the ordinary. Those who are too proud of their jobs and are condescending of other professions should take a hard look at the humility of Jesus. Those who are lazy should consider this a rebuke. Even the God of the universe does manual labor. How can we not? And lastly, those who do dirty jobs for quick money need to repent and start doing an honest work just like Jesus.

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