Was Jesus a Carpenter?

Contrary to widespread public opinion, Jesus was very possibly not a carpenter.

Why do I think that? For at least a couple of reasons that I find compelling.

First, I have been told that the word translated 'carpenter' actually would better be translated as a builder. Yes, Strong's concordance says it means a craftsman in wood, but Strong's is not always totally reliable in every detail as many experts will assure us. One reason to doubt the emphasis on wood inherent in carpentry is that buildings in those days were seldom made out of wood like we are used to seeing in other parts of the world. Wood was not that common of a commodity while stone was far more accessible and useful for buildings. Thus, while Jesus and his father may have had some experience with wood, it is more likely that they may have been stone masons helping to erect buildings and houses of stone which is still a very common building method in Israel today, though now it is more likely to involve concrete.

Whether or not Jesus was a wood carpenter or a stone mason is not significant for our salvation and certainly not worth arguing about. However, another passage while not indicating the physical occupation of Jesus so much, but is certainly connected to the activity of building, is something I have been pondering for some time now from the writings of Paul, himself an avid follower of Jesus. The implications of this passage keep stirring around inside my soul raising questions in my heart.

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. (1 Corinthians 3:11-13)

There is so much in this verse that I sense needs to be grasped and absorbed that I hardly know where to start. But one thing is very clear; there are stark differences between the materials mentioned here to choose from, and clearly the choices we make in our own building process will have enormous effects on our lives in the future. That is something that must become very vivid in our awareness.

Obviously these are symbolic concepts Paul is using here. But symbols have great significance and often point us to realities far more important than the physical realities they resemble. It is also important to note here that since it is clear Paul is using symbols, it must be seen immediately that the fire is also symbolic. Yet whatever this fire represents it also is extremely important to understand, for fire is not something that should ever be ignored, especially when it relates to our eternal life.

I want to understand far much more than I do what is meant in these six options of building materials. What might the Bible have to reveal about each of these things and how do they affect me. And just what is inferred in the idea of building? Is Paul speaking of building in reference to my own character alone? Is he talking about how I go about practicing my religion? Is this referring to how I seek to build up the body of Christ in connection to those around me? If so, then just what is meant or implied in each of these material options? And since it is clear here that choosing some will result in loss while choosing others can result in rewards, it is vital that I know the meanings behind the symbols if I am ever to know how to make better choices than what I have likely been making up to this point.

Clearly, if literal fire were applied as a test on these six materials, half of them would be destroyed, yet likely in different lengths of time. In addition, the relative usefulness or value of each of the last three is interesting as well. Wood is generally relied on for much of our building needs and is counted on to last for many years Some wood may last for hundreds of years under the right conditions. But wood is wood and as far as I know most of it is still quite vulnerable to destruction when exposed to fire. It is also vulnerable to other threats such as rottenness and termites.

Hay is not nearly so useful a building material, although both hay and straw bales tightly packed and covered with certain materials have proven to be very good insulation and useful for building exceptionally warm, solid houses in some areas of the world. As far as I can tell, the difference between hay and straw is mainly the nutritional content, though I might be mistaken. Straw is generally the stalks left over after grain is cut off the top, while hay is full of nutritional leaves and seeds that is used for feeding cattle and other animals.

At the other end of the spectrum, when I look at precious stones, silver and gold. I assume that these are arranged here to be relative in value progressively, with gold being the most valuable. All of these things are listed as being materials composing the New Jerusalem that God will bring to this earth at the end of the thousand year millenium. I don't recall there being any mention of wood, hay or straw as being a part of that city. That should alert us to something significant right there. And as far as whether those things are physical or symbolic or both in the makeup of that city, these are questions that can be debated. But whatever it is, these materials figure prominently in descriptions of heaven.

God is in no way materialistic or selfish, so I'm certain He is not bent on indulging us in ways that would encourage selfish desires within us. We must view the things of God with the eyes of heaven as much as possible, for that is what Paul has instructed we need to do (see 1 Corinthians 2). Based on what Paul is saying here, it appears God wants us to value certain things with higher priority than other things, and getting our priorities rearranged is very much par of the process of salvation and sanctification. Yet if we are unaware of the deeper meanings of these various terms, it will be difficult to make wise choices. We might think we are using the best materials only to discover too late that we have been using flammable stuff that goes up in smoke right before our eyes, while others nearby that we may have despised are found to be full of rich rewards that we were expecting ourselves.

I don't have any building experience with any of the first three materials. I have heard that gold is one of the best electrical conductors that can be found. Both gold and silver are also known to have very beneficial healing properties for the body and even the mind. Precious stones are a whole different arena that I have almost no knowledge about. But what I do find interesting is something that has become very popular as of late, that is LEDs. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode and a diode is either a stone of something very similar to it. Transistors, those tiny little stones that radically transformed our world when they were discovered and began to be used in electronics a number of years ago are similar in nature and are very useful in most of our current high technology.

I did some research not long ago in the writings of an author that I have great respect for and came across a number of compelling comments about stones that emit light. I am passing this along as an attachment for anyone interested in perusing what I discovered. I have also been told that experts analyzing descriptions of the New Jerusalem say it has intriguing configurations that if power were applied in certain ways might make it able to fly. Streets of gold could act as circuits conducting enormous power and the precious stones mentioned might act as transmitters or engines emitting enormous thrust for transporting the whole system similar to how some of our modern spacecraft are designed to travel through outer space.

I come back to what is likely the most important question however, and that is how I need to choose what I use as I invest in whatever it is I am building, either my own life or in those around me. How can I know what is gold, silver or precious stones in the eyes of heaven that maybe from a worldly perspective might be considered worthless? How can I avoid using the cheap stuff that may appear to be good for building from my viewpoint but that would quickly be consumed when the fire of God's passion is unleashed and all my choices are exposed to the intense light of His purity and love?

I strongly suspect that given the nature of Satan's kingdom that is founded on deceptions, we are all pre-wired to assume the wrong things about the relative value of what we use to build. I don't think it would be safe to assume we can perceive the proper value for anything based on our selfish, fallen natures that so distort reality for us. I must have heavenly discernment and divine guidance to know what is truly valuable or what is in danger of being consumed that would leave me vulnerable and empty. I want to know more about this before it is too late and my building is already fully constructed.


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