I want to tell you a story about Jesus you have never heard. It's not in the Bible, but it is true.
The Bible is silent about Jesus' life from age 12 until 30. There is the barest of hints in Mark 6:3. When Jesus went back to his hometown, they were amazed at his teaching. They said, "Isn't this the carpenter?"
We don't know what kind of carpenter he was. He might have built houses or repaired roofs. Maybe he built wagons, plow handles and threshing forks. He could have been a furniture maker.
If he was a builder of buildings, he had to bid jobs like any other contractor. A man would tell him he wanted a new house built and Jesus would have to figure the cost of his materials, his labor, his sub-contractors and figure what profit he needed. It's kind of odd to think of Jesus doing math.
Like any skilled laborer, he had to purchase tools. He would have to go and negotiate a price for the tools he needed with the blacksmith, then wait for them to be made. I can imagine the conversation went something like this:
Jesus: "Have you got that hammer done yet?"
Blacksmith: "Well Jesus, I'm a little behind. Andrew was in here yesterday, and he had a horse that threw a shoe, and I had to fix that. Then James came by and needed a new axe head - offered double the price. I had to have the widow Martha's hoe fixed, so I put you off. I'll get to it tomorrow." No wonder Jesus was patient.
Jesus would have been skilled in buying raw wood. He'd shape it into something different (a familiar skill I'm sure) and then sell it for something more than the cost of the wood, to reimburse him for his time and skill. It's called "creating value." Living in the ancient Middle East, he probably had to negotiate every deal. He did not do this a year or two, but for 18 years. This is how he made his living.
Because of his character, we know he was honest. But he also had to be wise in what he charged. He had to budget enough to put food on his table, pay his taxes and save for a rainy day.
We know his taxes were high. It is estimated that the average Jew paid more than 50% of his income in taxes of one form or another (think about that next time you complain about your taxes). If you failed to pay your taxes, you went to jail. Just like today, you had to pay whether you had the money or not. Jesus knew the pressure of having to pay a tax bill.
Since Jesus was a carpenter, he had to buy at least some of his food. Every day either he or his mother would go to the marketplace and haggle over a quart of grain or some dried fish. Shopping was not a pleasure. He saw prices rise and fall depending on supply and demand. I can imagine his mother at supper complaining about the high price of figs these days.
Jesus, being a devout Jewish male, would have gone to the synagogue every Sabbath. Most likely there was an offering taken to help the poor. Jesus faced the decision each week: to give or not to give.
So, what's this story of Jesus you've never heard? It is the story of Jesus running a small business, paying taxes, planning a budget, buying groceries, deciding to give to God's work - doing the same things we do.
It can be tempting to say to God, "You don't understand what it is like for me. Money is tight. I've got bills, and we need to eat. I'm working hard, and it seems like I never have enough."
The story that's not in the Bible, but is true, means none of us can look at Jesus and say, "You don't understand money." In fact, it means the opposite is true. He had to go to work. He had to negotiate business deals. He had to pay taxes - more than you do. He had to worry about feeding his mother and himself.
Every money challenge you face, Jesus faced. Do you think maybe we could learn something from him?
Maybe, we could learn that money isn't all its cracked up to be. Maybe we could learn to seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that everything else will be added to us.
Next time you worry about your finances, talk to Jesus. He's been there.
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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