Summary: We can serve God in our secular jobs just as Jesus did.
Many years ago, there was a movie which came out entitled "OH GOD". It starred John Denver as a grocery store manager who was visited by God, who was portrayed by George Burns. I’ve never seen the movie, but I heard about one scene which I think may teach us a bit.
John Denver receives a letter telling him that he has been granted an audience with God. Although he considers the whole thing to be a hoax, he goes to the designated meeting place. The room is empty except for a single chair and the voice of God. John Denver asks that God show himself.
Reluctantly, God appears before John Denver, and he looks a lot like George Burns. There God stands as an old man with thick glasses in baggy pants, tennis shoes, a windbreaker jacket and a golf hat! When John Denver stares in disbelief, God replies, "Well, what did you expect?"
Now you may find that scene amusing or you may be a bit offended, but I think we can also be taught because it’s similar to what happened in our text this morning. "Then he went out from there and came to his own country, and his disciples followed him. And when the Sabbath had come, he began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing him were astonished saying, ’Where did this man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to him, that such mighty works are performed by his hands! Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him." (Mark 6:1-3).
In this passage, God in the person of Jesus Christ stands before this group of men in a synagogue in Nazareth, the town where he grew up. Jesus had already traveled around a bit and gained a reputation in Israel. He had performed miracles like raising the dead, healing the sick and calming the storm. He had taught large crowds; he was known throughout Palestine as the miracle-working rabbi.
Then he went home, back to Nazareth. And there he taught in the synagogue. Maybe he taught the very same lesson that he had used in other towns. But the reaction in Nazareth was very much different than the reaction he got elsewhere. They raised the question, "Where did he learn how to teach like this? This is just the carpenter that used to live down the street." They just couldn’t bring themselves to believe that this could be the Messiah of the Old Testament -- he was just a carpenter. And you can almost imagine Jesus asking the question, "Well, what did you expect?"
Maybe you have a bit of a problem seeing our God as a carpenter. Can you envision the great God of the universe in a workshop knee-deep in wood-shavings? Or to bring it up-to-date, can you picture God as a grease-covered auto mechanic or as a washing machine repairman? The truth is, it’s kind of hard for us to picture Jesus as anything other than a powerful preacher, isn’t it?
We know that fathers in the first century were expected to teach their children a trade. Joseph, no doubt, taught Jesus what he knew about carpentry. We don’t know anything about Jesus’ life between the ages of 12 and 30, but I think it’s safe to say that he spent much, if not all of that time, working in his father’s carpenter shop.
It seems likely that Joseph died at a young age, and Jesus as the oldest son may have been the major provider for the family. Whatever else may be true, though, we do know that Jesus worked there long enough to be known by the folks of Nazareth as "Jesus the Carpenter". And in Mark 6:3, we find people who were offended at Jesus because he was "only a carpenter".
Our God was a carpenter, and I think that there are several lessons that we can gain by taking note of that fact. I want to begin by looking at the distinction we sometimes make between secular work and sacred work.
I. The Sacred and the Secular
Let me ask you a question -- Do you think Jesus was serving his heavenly Father as he worked in his earthly father’s shop planing doors and smoothing yokes? Or do you think he was just marking time until he could get out there and really begin his work for God? While he labored in that shop, was he just engaged in secular work, or was he even then serving God?
I’m afraid that we have created an improper distinction between the sacred and the secular. What I mean by that? We usually think of secular work as work that has no spiritual or religious content. And sacred work is work that is spiritual in nature.