Jesus – monk or manager? The answer could change your life!


When you think about Jesus, what kind of minister do you think he was?  This may sound like a strange question, but it is important to answer it honestly!  I have come to see that most Christians tend to think of Jesus more as ‘monk’ than as a ‘manager’!

Some of the people that I spoke to thought that Jesus did similar things during his ministry to what their pastor does today (he preached, he cared for the sick, he nurtured people, he built a community).  Now of course that is partially true – a great deal of what pastors do in their congregations today is modelled on the ministry of Jesus.  However, it is a mistake to limit your understanding of Jesus’ ministry to such a narrow understanding.  The problem with seeing Jesus in this way is that it becomes difficult to imagine that Jesus did the kinds of ‘ordinary’ things that you and I have to do each day!  Somehow this ‘religious’ view of Jesus and his ministry creates a measure of separation between our everyday lives, and particularly our everyday work lives, and the life and work of Jesus.

In fact, I’m sure that like me you may have heard some sermons preached in which the impression is created that Jesus is antagonistic towards the marketplace!

Our picture of Jesus and his ministry is shaped by years of reading, learning, and thinking about the saviour.  I have found that sometimes I need to see things from a slightly different perspective in order to discover new opportunities and possibilities for my faith life.

Let me illustrate it to you in this way.  Recently a friend attended a course on ‘listening’ for a counselling program he is running.  The facilitator placed a serial box in the middle of the table around which the participants were sitting.  He asked each of them to tell the others what they saw.  Naturally there were various descriptions of the box depending on where the participants were sitting.  Some saw the front of the box, while others saw the back.  Some could see part of the front and one side, while others could see part of the back and the other side.

What you will read next is simply an attempt to look at Jesus’ life from a different angle, an angle that might help you to feel closer to him in your everyday worklife.

Biblical scholars tell us that Jesus lived for about 33 years (from his birth to his death on the cross).  During those 33 years the synoptic Gospels record that Jesus only spent 3 years of his life, from age 30-33, doing the kind of ministry that makes most people view him as a wondering monk, or Rabbi (Hebrew teacher or priest).  Have you ever thought about what Jesus did with the rest of his life?  Did Jesus only start loving people, praying for them, caring for their needs, telling them about God when he turned 30?  Of course not!  While Jesus may only have started his public ‘teaching’ ministry at around 30 years of age (Lk 4:14-15), we know that he was already displaying the evidence of his special nature and calling as a young boy.  Luke says ‘And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.’ (Lk 2:40).  How would others have known of his wisdom unless he was saying and doing wise things?  How would they have known that God’s grace was upon him unless he was already displaying God’s grace in his words and actions?  In fact the clearest evidence that Jesus was already engaging in ministry as a boy is to be found Luke 2:41-52, the account of Jesus engaging the priests in conversation in the temple.  Once again this passage ends with Luke noting, ‘And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.’ (Lk 2:52 NIV).

So, we can be sure that Jesus was a minister, even as a young child – (Lk 4:49) Jesus notes that he is about his Father’s business.  As we discussed in chapter 4, to be a minister means to ‘act under God’s authority’.  It is assumed that Jesus would have been about 12 years of age when this incident in the temple took place, and as Luke points out he continued to grow in stature, getting recognition from others, and found great favour with God and other people.

This simply means that Jesus was in a different form of ministry from at least age 12-30, than the kind of ministry he did from age 30-33.  What kind of ministry was Jesus engaged in for those 18 years?  Mark’s Gospel gives us an insight into the primary way in which Jesus’ community viewed him during that period, ‘Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ (Mk 6:3 NIV).

Jesus’ contemporaries recognised him first as a businessman – a carpenter – and then only later as their teacher and saviour.

It is important to note that Jesus didn’t do carpentry as a hobby.  In the ancient near east a boy would take up his trade as a teenager, normally learning the skills and techniques that he would use to support his family in years to come.  Since Joseph was a carpenter, Jesus followed the same trade.  So by the time of Jesus begins his public ministry (Lk 4:15) he had spent almost 20 years applying his trade.  Of course it is not surprising that his contemporaries found it difficult to relate to him as their saviour, since some of them would have bought Jesus’ products!  Perhaps they had a table, or a door, or some farm implement, that Jesus had crafted for them in their house.  Furthermore, Jesus clearly knew his trade well, since we can see that he uses the metaphor of a wooden yoke, something that a skilled carpenter would have made many times, to illustrate the blessing of living a life under submission to God (see Matt 11:29-30).  As Ed Silvoso rightly points out in Anointed for business, Jesus parables are full of examples that show his understanding of business and the marketplace:  construction (Matt 7:24-27), wine making (Lk 5:37-38), farming (Mk 4:2-20), tending animals (Mt 18:13-44), management and labour (Matt 20:1-16), return on investments (Matt 25:14-30), crop yield (Mk 13:27-32), and management criteria (Lk 12:35-48).

Just as Jesus encountered people with the knowledge of business then, he wishes to encounter you with the knowledge of your daily work today!  Jesus understands the pressures of working with people, the challenge of creating something that one can market and sell in order to earn a livelihood.  Jesus knows how to deal with customers and suppliers, how to manage a workflow and juggle priorities in order to remain in business – he did it for 20 years of his life.  And, the remarkable thing about it is that we’re told that while he did this he continued to grow in wisdom and favour with both God and people!  Jesus understands what it means to be a minister in the marketplace.

Central to Jesus ministry in the marketplace was the understanding that he needed to obey God’s will in order to effectively establish God’s Kingdom on earth.  Notice that Jesus mission statement is very practical, it deals with poverty, health care, criminal reform, debt, justice and God’s loving favour (Lk 4:18-19).

You can read more about Jesus and the workplace in ‘Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling” you can download the first few chapters here, or purchase a copy of the book at Christian Republic or at Wordsworth and Exclusive books.

Christian republic has a special running – you can get the book for just R88.00 and that includes a free leather type journal.

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