Paul worked for 1 ½ years with a husband and wife team (Aquila and Priscilla) while conducting missionary work in Corinth (Acts 18:2). While working as a tent maker, he continued to teach the Word in the local synagogue. It is of interest how he employed the word “work” throughout his life and teachings, especially in relationship to what God is doing and what His people are doing. The importance of work is highlighted throughout his letters.
Luke quotes Paul in Acts 20:32-35, ”You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give, than to receive.'”
In the letter from Ephesians 4:28 Paul writes, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. In 1 Thess 4:11-12 he writes, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
In the above scriptures Paul emphasized the point of working to support oneself and one’s family rather than live as a beggar dependent on others for necessities. Paul himself demonstrated the importance of having a skill (tent making) that provides a service to others (shelter) and a livelihood for oneself. A Christian is to gladly work “unto the Lord” (Col 3:22-24). The work one does should not glorify oneself, but God. In addition, the work should be a means to provide for those less fortunate – “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Also, as work relates to fulfilling God’s plan, He writes in Titus 1:7 that “an overseer is entrusted with God’s work.” Barnabas and Paul was set apart by the Holy Spirit for this work (Act 13:2-3). And not only were they commissioned for this work, but had to support themselves in the process (I Cor 9:6). He again writes how one’s work for the Lord must stand the test of trials, difficulties, problems, especially when we shall all be evaluated at the end of this age (I Cor 3:10-15).
He was primarily focused on the Lord’s work and only labored to support himself and his team, not to gain riches. He practiced what he preached. The work of the Lord was the priority in his life and for all those that the Lord calls (I Cor 15:58, 16:9,10). While working his craft, he contemplated and compared the physical craft of tent making to the spiritual work God is completing in us as a church and as an individual. His analogy of the body working together as a team with all its parts supporting one another is but one example of lessons learned while working (I Cor 12:12-13).
All tent-makers need to stand up and rejoice. It is an example for all people everywhere that the craft, skill, profession, and work we perform is more than just to feed ourselves. It’s a means of grace that we practice. When we work, we are able to support those less fortunate than ourselves and therefore practice love of our neighbor. When we work, we learn how God operates in our lives. When we work, we are able to compare and better understand the spiritual realities we face each day. When we work, we are able to express ourselves by the results of our labor. When we work, we contribute to the community we reside in. There are many valuable lessons we learn while we work. To paraphrase Jesus, “God works, and so do I.”
What other insights of ministry do you think Paul may have received while engaged as a tent maker?