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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Occupation (2)

OCCUPATION.—This word is not found in the Gospels. It occurs elsewhere twice in the Authorized Version (Acts 18:3 [τέχνη] and Acts 19:25 [περὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα]). ‘Occupy,’ in the sense of ‘do business,’ ‘traffic,’ ‘trade’ (so Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ), is found in Authorized Version of Luke 19:13 as the rendering of πραγματεύομαι. Christ, as well as His reputed father, was Himself an artificer in wood, or a carpenter (τέκτων). Every Jewish boy, indeed, had to learn a trade (τέχνη), that it might stand between him and destitution if, other resources failed. And however far removed our Lord might be in later life from quondam fellow-craftsmen, this technical education kept Him in touch with His industrial compatriots.

Our Lord’s attitude towards the various occupations in which men are engaged is of more interest than details regarding the occupations themselves. Judaism in Christ’s day had lost hold of the masses, because its ministers urged a law viewed by themselves in false perspective. Christ denounced them for tithing mint, anise, and cummin, while omitting the weightier matters, judgment, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23). Hence work and worship were largely divorced. People indulged in pagan-like worry over the question, What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewith shall we be clothed? instead of seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:31 ff.). But Christ’s strenuous example proved the possibility of being diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. ‘I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night Cometh, when no man can work’ (John 9:4). He never allowed danger to interfere with duty—‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him’ (John 11:9-10). Christ poured contempt on that monastic spirit which creates artificial distinctions and exalts religious officials, devoid of religious motives, at the expense of those who, though engaged in less responsible callings, are more devout. He reprobated the Pharisee who thanked God for his superiority to other men; and justified the Publican who was a butt for his fellow-worshipper’s sneers (Luke 18:10 ff.). He rebuked Simon, haughtily hospitable, and commended the kindly woman, whose love exceeded her pride (Luke 7:44 ff.). He held up the priest and Levite to perennial scorn; and crowned with approbation that Samaritan who proved more humane, if he did not profess to be as holy as they (Luke 10:30 ff.). St. Luke relates with professional delight how Jesus defended His own act of healing on the Sabbath day, against the false spirituality that saw in it a breach of the Fourth Commandment (Luke 13:15 f., Luke 14:3 ff.).

A legitimate inference from all this is that our Lord—with His healthy outlook on life—would encourage all the honest occupations which ministered to man’s varied needs. The Apostles’ teaching surely reflected the mind of their Master on this subject. If eating and drinking could contribute to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), then all the occupations which provided food and drink could be pursued in the same spirit. St. Paul enjoins on bishops and other teachers of the gospel to inculcate upon Christians that they should maintain good works for necessary uses (Titus 3:14). That means for the support of themselves and families, and relief of the needy. This is a duty as imperative in its own place as the duty of the ministry, and the Apostle lays great stress on it. ‘This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men’ (Titus 3:8), i.e. of general benefit and advantage to mankind. Thus a man’s occupation, instead of being a hindrance to religion, is a part of it,—that sphere in which he can prove himself a doer of the word,—and faithfulness is required there as much as anywhere else (Luke 16:10). See also artt. Business, Carpenter, Trades.

Literature.—Besides Lexicons, see articles on ‘Craft,’ ‘Trade,’ and ‘Trades’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible ; Tillotson, Sermon 101 vol. vi.; Delitzsch, Jewish Artisan Life.

D. A. Mackinnon.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Occupation (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/o/occupation-2.html. 1906-1918.

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