Posts tagged ‘carpenter’

May 16, 2012

Jesus the Sole Trader

A couple of months ago Catherine wrote a post about what Jesus would be like if he lived today, entitled “Would Jesus Tweet?”  Recently I have been thinking about what he was like during the 15 years that he was a carpenter.

All we have in the bible about Jesus between his infancy and the start of his ministry is that when Jesus was 12 he went to Jerusalem with his parents, which would have been an annual trip.  On that occasion he surprised people with his insight into what we now call the Old Testament.

Then we go 18 years forwards to the time that he starts his public ministry.  So during those 18 years it is likely that Jesus mostly worked as a carpenter in Nazareth.  His education would have finished somewhere in his teenage years.  Back in that time there were not companies – the vast majority of people worked for themselves.  Jesus might have been part of a family business, since it is possible that he was taught carpentry by his father.  We just don’t know.

I would love to know what Jesus was like as a sole trader.  I want to know what Jesus did when people didn’t pay their bills.  If someone had credit and it had been a while since they made a payment how would Jesus go about getting them to bring their account up to date?  Would he have taken a “kick the money changers out of the temple” approach, or a “then neither do I condemn you” approach?

What would Jesus do with an angry customer?  Would he charm them, maybe placate them by offering half price on the next job?  Or would he give as good as he got if the customer was making unreasonable demands and allegations.  If he got into an argument he could use the line, “do you know who I am?”  But I can’t see him pulling that one out.

Let’s say that Jesus made a chair for a child, the customer took it home, and an adult sat on it and broke it.  If the customer tried to return it and said that it was poorly made what would Jesus do?  Would he call them out on their improper use of the chair?  Would he simply make a new one to keep the customer happy or would he tell them that they couldn’t have their money back because the chair was well made, so bad luck.  If the customer got angry and raised their voice would Jesus change tack?  Or would Jesus pull out a woman-at-the-well style word of knowledge, “well actually, this is what happened…”

Did he ever have to sue to get paid?  Did he have to go to court and give evidence?  Maybe even be cross examined as to the quality of his work?  What an extraordinary thing that the one who will judge the living and the dead would have to sit in Nazareth Magistrates Court (or whatever they had back then) and give evidence to get his 4.75 shekels for the stable that he had made the other month.

I wonder what Jesus’ customer service was like.  Did he inwardly groan when he saw a difficult customer come in through the front door?

Was he any good?  If a piece of work was difficult how did  he rate compared to his competitors?  Was he one of those tradies that is booked solid for months and months to come?  How did he handle it when he made mistakes?  He made mistakes alright – he was fully human.  He didn’t sin – he would not have shouted a profanity when he struck his thumb with his hammer, but he certainly would have belted his thumb on plenty of occasions.

The bible answers none of these questions but I’d love to know.

The reason that I am so interested is because as a barrister I am a sole trader.  I have to weigh up how to deal with bad debts, unhappy customers / clients / solicitors, and if we just had a couple of extra chapters in the gospels about Jesus the carpenter that would be great.

What do you think?


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