Author: Ron Graham
Working With Your Own Hands
—And not only your hands
In Mark 6:2-3, you will find a reference to the hands of Jesus. On either side of the words "his hands" you will notice two quite different statements. First there is a recognition of "the mighty works done by his hands". That is followed by the question, "Is not this the carpenter?"
In the minds of those who said these things, there was some confusion. How could the hands of a manual artisan, making furniture for the market place, also perform divine miracles? It did not seem right. Somehow, the hands that worked for God's glory could not be the same hands that fashioned wood into a stool or an axe handle. How wrong they were!
1 The Honour of Working With Your Own Hands
Acts 9:39, Acts 18:1-3
Those who work with their hands can glorify God, because they are following his good counsel. The example of Dorcas, a woman rich in good works, was a worker with her hands. When she died, the garments made by her hands were shown as a token of her worth (Acts 9:39).
Paul, as another example, did not think it demeaning but honourable to engage in his trade and to make tents with his own hands (Acts 18:1-3).
The Scripture commands and commends "working with your own hands what is good" (Ephesians 4:28, 1Thessalonians 4:11-12). Those whose hands are not idle know that they honour God, because they keep his commandment to be gainfully employed.
Now, in those same verses, plus one more, you will find five benefits, stated or implied, of using your hands for good work...
2 The Benefits of Working With Your Own Hands
Ephesians 4:28, 1Thessalonians 4:11-12, Titus 2:3-5
- Firstly, in the contrast with stealing, we can see self respect gained by working with ones hands. A thief cannot by stealing gain self respect. By becoming an honest worker with the hands one can gain self satisfaction (Ephesians 4:28).
- Secondly, there is the joy of helping someone in need with the product of your own hands (Ephesians 4:28).
- Thirdly there is the example you set by being seen and approved as one who does good with your hands (1Thessalonians 4:12).
- Fourthly, there is the independence you gain by providing your own needs with your own hands. (1Thessalonians 4:12).
- Fifthly, many people on low incomes do for themselves what richer people hire others to do. This means that the “do-it-yourself-ers” do well on less money. Furthermore, they also save the tax and expenses that earning the extra money would incur. They spend fewer hours working away from home and family. A less stressful, less consuming, more interesting, and more sensible life ensues.
Good economics measures dollars saved as dollars earned, and also recognises values that do not easily take a dollar figure. An example of this is that some people see value in doing less paid work, so they can do some or all of their own child care and housework (Titus 2:3-5 cf Ephesians6:4).
3 Working With Your Whole Self, Not Only Your Hands
Romans 12:1, 1Corinthians 12:14-22, Colossians 3:23
You may have had a problem with this lesson thus far. It may be that you don't have any hands, or the hands you have are crippled or badly injured. Or perhaps you have a good pair of hands, yet they are unskilled and you do not regard yourself as a “hands on” or “handy” person.
You might say, "I am a brain person, I'm no good with my hands". Well that doesn't make this lesson irrelevant or disadvantageous to you.
Our hands are not the only instruments with which our bodies are blessed for work. We are to appreciate and use all the members of our "bodies as a living sacrifice acceptable to God" (Romans 12:1). Every member of the body is necessary and useful (1Corinthians 12:15).
The same principles that we have seen applied to our hands may also be applied to our brains or our eyes and ears, or any other members of the body that can be used for work. There are artists who have no hands, but paint with the brush held in the mouth or toes.
Surely these folk are, in principle, "working with their hands what is good" even though it happens to be another member of the body that they are using.
As we leave this study, don't you think we should mention the part of us that is not a member of our fleshly body but is the dweller within it —our inner being?
Paul says, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward..." (Colossians 3:23-24). He was talking to slaves who often found their labour unappreciated and unrewarded.
If slaves were expected to do their work heartily, surely we can. So you see, although this lesson has, on the face of it, been about working with the fleshly body, it was really a lesson about attitude, wasn't it?