So here’s a question that’s been floating around my head for a while, “What kind of a carpenter was Jesus? Could he have been terrible?”
I know we often think of Jesus as being excellent, and he is. He was sinless, he was a great teacher, he did awesome miracles, he died for the sins of the world, he rose to eternal life, he is God! He’s pretty amazing! But none of these things mean that he is necessarily going to be an excellent carpenter. It’s not sinful to be terrible at carpentry, at least I hope it’s not. Considering my woodwork in high school, I would have a lot of repenting to do if being able to cut wood in a straight line is a matter of morality.
It’s also not sinful to be bad at your job. It is wrong to be lazy, it’s wrong to not do your best, but what if Jesus’ best carpentry wasn’t very good? Jesus’ dad was a carpenter, so Jesus followed him into the family trade, but just because your Dad can do something well doesn’t mean you can. I’m pretty sure my Dad was a quality engineer before he retired to take up pushing grandchildren around his yard in a wheelbarrow full time. And while I fancy myself as pretty handy with a wheelbarrow containing a small child, I suspect, even with a university degree or two, I couldn’t engineer a bridge to save my life, or the lives of anyone who happened to use that bridge, for that matter.
What if Joseph taught Jesus how to do carpentry but Jesus just didn’t get it? What if all his tables were wobbly? What if God’s way of letting him know that he may infact be the messiah was partly through his total inability to put up a level shelf? I don’t know quite how you figure out it’s your job to die for the sins the world, but if Jesus was a winner carpenter he may have missed God’s call. He may have looked at his amazing outdoor furniture set that he built for the Levi the Milkman to put on his rooftop patio and think “This is my calling! The world needs my carpentry!” and then we all would have missed out on his imputed righteousness! So God gave Jesus the hammer and chisel skills of a drunk in a snowstorm (I’m guessing drunks in snowstorms are not very good with a hammer and chisel) so that Jesus might be encouraged to pursue other lines of work. Perhaps when Jesus gave Mary one more ugly piece of furniture for her birthday, like he did every year, Mary said “Have you ever thought about something other than carpentry Jesus? Maybe you might consider fulfilling a few prophecies for my birthday next year?” Perhaps when Jesus started preaching all the people in Nazareth breathed a sigh of relief that Jesus wouldn’t be the one building their constantly breaking dining sets anymore.
Now all this is obviously speculation. Jesus may have been an excellent carpenter. After all he was God, if Thor has taught us anything it’s that gods know how to use a hammer. But here’s my question, if Jesus’ divine nature was expressed in his carpentry skills, where is the stuff he built? Surely it would have been built to last. And surely when he reached fame in his early-30s some of the people who he built stuff for would have put that divinely made chest of drawers aside and said “Jesus Christ built this, it might be worth something one day.” And then it would be passed down from generation to generation and everyone would marvel that it is the best tall boy in the history of the world. But there is none of Jesus’ furniture, at least not that I know of, and I have done zero research into this, so I would know. No, what I think happened, is Jesus became a big shot travelling preacher and all his customers thought “Great, he’s found something else to do with himself, I can get all this terrible stuff replaced and Jesus won’t notice.” I suspect that’s where the well know phrase came from – “Looks like it was built by a preacher.” They all threw out their rubbish carpentry and got someone who had skills to build them new stuff, while Jesus went on to save the world. Everyone won.
Jesus may have been an excellent carpenter, or he may not have. But that isn’t the point is it? He was a tradesman, good or not, God did a trade for most of his earthly life. And then he was preacher, and then he was a saviour. And he’s an excellent saviour, the best saviour, the only true saviour, so it’s not a big deal if his woodwork fell apart. He keeps the world together.