Part 5 of What Dads Today Can Learn From Joseph


My dad always worked long and hard-usually 12-hour days. He was a machinist and took pride in his work. Often the boss would come to him with special projects that required highly accurate lathe cuts because he knew my dad would get the job done. He always told me, "Son, if you're gonna do a job, take the time to do it right."  ~~Wayne, a dad.

In 1974 Harry Chapin-now deceased-recorded his first album, Verities & Balderdash, which included his only number one hit, "Cat's in the Cradle."
 
Harry Chapin was known throughout his career as being more than just a singer/songwriter. He told stories through his music, intentionally stirring the hearts of his listeners. This particular song dealt with a young father who traveled extensively in his business, though what that business was, was not revealed. It was apparent that he was very proud of his young son, but that he had little time for the lad.

Still, the boy would look at his father's departing form and declare, "I'm gonna be like him!"

The boy grew to be a man, married, and eventually became a father himself. Retired, his father suddenly had time for him, but now his son had no time for his father. After all, his job was demanding, his children had been battling the flu....

And then came Mr. Chapin's final words: And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.

The song reminded dads that the time spent with their children was precious, that their children would be watching them, and that perhaps they'd grow up to be "just like them." Perhaps as it had been when a baker's son became a baker-proud of his trade. When a shepherd's son tended the offspring of his flock-proud of his trade. When a king's son became a king and one particular carpenter's son became a carpenter...until the day He became the King of Kings.

Biblical Background

In the days of Joseph and Jesus it was the task of the father to educate his children-both his sons and his daughters. But the responsibility fell doubly where his sons were concerned for with them he was also to teach them the Torah and a craft. In doing so, it was felt, he kept his son as a part of the community.

It was the normal practice that whatever craft the father worked would be passed down and taught by the father. It's exciting to think about the boy Jesus learning the art and craft of carpentry and masonry at the hand of Joseph. Together perhaps they built things they were proud of, working long hours from the early morning to the dark of night, stopping only for prayer and meals. Perhaps they discussed the Scriptures, exchanged news of family members and friends. Maybe they even shared jokes they'd heard while in town purchasing necessary supplies.

This past summer, while traveling in Israel, we stopped at the ancient city of Zippori (Sepphoris). Sepphoris was a place of magnificence located only five miles north of Nazareth, where Joseph the carpenter lived with his family. Today, excavations reveal the detailed work of stonemasons (carpenters) from the first century and it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that Joseph and Jesus might have been among those who labored there. As they worked in the city that stood three hundred feet above the valley floor, Joseph might have said the very same essence of words quoted by the dad in this article's opener:  "Whatever you do...take your time and do it right."

So much of Jesus' relationship to his earthly father Joseph is taken only from what we can imagine. Scripture gives us but hints, yet when we factor in the human equation, we can draw so much depth.

Jesus was born in a time when family was everything. He spent his days-once He was old enough-learning a craft that would prepare Him for ministry. Being a carpenter requires seeing an unfinished project as though it were complete. It requires physical strength and the ability to work tirelessly. In those days, it was a humble man's trade and often carpenters lives on the outskirts of town, almost as though they didn't quite belong.