During one of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys he called at Miletus and spoke to a number of elders from there and Ephesus. It was a dramatic speech, because he did not know what the future held for himself or for them; as he reminded them of how he had always set them a good example he held up his two hands, now doubtless marked by hard work, and said: ‘You, yourselves, know that these hands of mine provided not only for my own wants, but for my companions also’. We know from Acts chapter 18 that it was by tent-making that he supported himself when need be, and that reminds me that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself almost certainly followed the trade of Joseph in His early years. ‘Is not this the carpenter’? they said when He went back and taught in the synagogue of His own country, and it is most probable that they were right.
The people of the Bible did not despise working with the hands as some do today. Even if he did not intend to follow a trade for his living, every Jewish boy learned one when young, and the rabbis used to say, ‘What is commanded of a father towards his son? … to teach him the law, to teach him a trade’. Paul’s parents were probably quite rich, but their son nevertheless learned a trade, and one which proved to be very useful to him when he met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth. He was able to say later that he had supported himself without being helped by those whom he led to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the very useful custom of learning a trade therefore proved to be to the glory of God in Paul’s experience.
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