Jesus was a day laborer

That’s right. Jesus wasn’t a carpenter. He was a day laborer.

I searched Google Images for "Hispanic Jesus," but this was the best I could find.

Don’t believe me?  I remember hearing once that the Greek word τέκτων (pronounced tek-ton), which was translated in the King James Bible (and ever since) as ‘carpenter,’ could also mean, among other things, ‘someone who works with their hands.’ Not to leave things to hearsay, I’ve just done an exhaustive Google web search that took me all of about two minutes, and two different bible lexicon websites I found (which you can check here and here) confirm that τέκτων has multiple meanings other than ‘carpenter.’ Though the exact definition I’d heard, ‘someone who works with their hands,’ is not among these, I’d say that it’s reasonable to assume that a ‘craftsman’ or ‘workman’ is someone who works with their hands.

Not only was Jesus a day laborer, he was also homeless (Matthew 8:20 & Luke 9:58)

It’s interesting to learn that the alleged occupation of both Jesus and his adopted daddy Joseph (see Matthew 13:55 & Mark 6:3) could be translated from Greek as something other than carpenter. It’s also interesting to re-cast Jesus as a ‘workman,’ instead of a carpenter, especially given the many and varied references in his parables to ‘workmen,’ people who might be more readily identified in our time as field hands, or day laborers. I say this because it occurs to me that if you were to travel around, spending basically all of your time teaching and preaching to people about things they may well have never considered before, you’d inevitably draw on your own experience, explaining things in terms that you are familiar with, as well as things that your audience is familiar with. Given Jesus’ many parables–using not only day laborers and workmen, but also various images of farming and field work–to explain the Kingdom of God, I can’t help but think that Jesus had some experience with a few of these things. Taken in tandem with a Greek word whose definition has a certain malleability in its definition that King James never intended us to know about, and we have a strengthening case for a Day Laborer Messiah.

Perhaps that’s the other reason this idea appeals to me so much. It seems so perfectly in line with everything else the Gospels teach, that the Messiah should come from such a lowly occupation. It’s almost offensive, isn’t it? Pairing our Lord n’ Savior with the  second-class status of a day laborer. But perhaps what’s most offensive about that connection is the unspoken implication that comes with it: if Jesus was a day laborer, then somehow this occupation (rather than carpentry) should be elevated and respected. Never mind the fact that most day laborers are often underpaid to do work that no one else is willing to do; if Jesus was a day laborer, then day laborers are somehow special, even important, just by virtue of the fact that they share an occupation with the Big Boss man. Next you’ll try to tell me that immigrants shouldn’t be called illegal, or that they’re full-fledged people; you might even try to convince me that the Jewish Messiah opened up God’s blessings to a bunch of dirty Gentiles. Please.

I’m thinking about all this to begin with because early this morning I drove into town and picked up a couple guys to help me crawl around under a house in some of the tightest, dirtiest spots you’ll ever try to squeeze through outside of a caving expedition, and put down a layer of plastic lining which will act as a moisture barrier. For those who don’t know, I’m currently living in Cumming, GA and I’m working with my dad to renovate and remodel a house that’s been in our family for over a hundred years, back to when my great grandfather built it in 1898.

I spent the better part of the morning getting down and dirty–literally–with these two hermanos, Gabriel and Victor, who came to Georgia from Mexico City as early as nine years ago to seek better economic opportunities. My dad paid them $75 for the three-and-a-half-hour job, which we thought would take the better part of 6 hours, and we bought them lunch before I dropped them off again. It’s not the first time we’ve worked with them either; I first met Gabriel a couple weeks ago when we picked him and two other guys up and paid them to remove the vinyl siding from the house.

It seems natural (or typical, anyway) that this should segue into a political discussion about immigration policy, economics and human rights. However, I feel that if you want that discussion, you could find it, more comprehensive and better-informed, by turning elsewhere. I think the news of Georgia farm worker shortages earlier this summer says enough about the economic impact of HB 87, and I don’t intend to rehash all of that again right here.

But I know what you’re thinking–not all of you, of course, but surely one or two–are Gabriel and Victor here illegally? Honestly, I don’t know; nor do I care. But ask yourself this: was Jesus?

Until next time, may the Peace of Christ (and a little discomfort) be with you!


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