In Which Jesus Probably wasn’t Good at Everything

Received my long-awaited copy of December’s Comment magazine. All-around great stuff for Christians who are interested in actually thinking and living like Christians.

In an excellent article (“Why Architecture Matters” by David Greusel), I came across this, which struck me as odd:

…Jesus obviously excelled at whatever he put his hand to.

Now, substantively this statement had little to no bearing on the article (which is why I didn’t feel the need to include the context). Nevertheless, I think the assumption is worth questioning:

Why “obviously”?
Why would we assume that Jesus “excelled at whatever he put his hand to”? Couldn’t he have been just a mediocre carpenter, for instance? Being without sin, he would not have been lazy, sure. But what does being without sin have to do with “excelling”? Not saying he did not or was not capable of excelling at some things (a few fairly obvious ones come to mind), but why would we assume that he excelled at everything he set his hand to?

It seems that here “sinless” has been conceptually conflated with “ideal”. But Jesus was not the “ideal” man (“Greeks” he mutters, spitting thrice). All things being equal, I’m happy not looking like Jesus as the Bible describes him. I bet he wouldn’t be able to get a job with Calvin Klein, and that’s not because there’s (necessarily) something wrong with Calvin’s understanding of what makes an attractive male. According to Scripture, Jesus just doesn’t fit the bill.

I certainly mean no disrespect for my Lord and Saviour. I just wonder: Scripturally, why couldn’t he have been (be) mediocre at something?

Post Script – I want to reiterate again what a wonderful periodical Comment is. Please visit them at and subscribe. Each issue is humbly spilled perfume.


5 comments on “In Which Jesus Probably wasn’t Good at Everything

  1. Nathan says:

    I think that he probably would have made a mediocre BBQ spare ribs. Could he even cook anything other than Mediterranean cuisine?

  2. i don’t know, although having tried a few mediteranean recipes, i’d have to say that if he could cook that stuff, ain’t no mean feat.

    the concept just struck me as being really weird. a bit of hellenistic backwash in, as i said, an otherwise excellent article.

  3. Abra says:

    I think perhaps we sometimes forget that no matter how perfect Jesus was, He was still living in an fallen world. That is to say, even if a cook follows every direction to a T, the elements are still against her/him. Also, I have to take issue that CK has any idea what an “attractive” man looks like (in the literal sense.) Their male undies ads always made me a little nauseas. Now if they used skinny Irish dudes…

  4. Kat says:

    Ben you always think of weird things that make so much sense.

  5. John says:

    Furthermore, when was he excellent at everything he tried? The first time he tried it, so that he never had to learn? That‘s certainly unbiblical.

    Was he excellent at everything as a child? as a baby? If Joseph had handed 2-year-old Jesus a bunch of nails and a hammer and set him down in front of a pile of boards, could he have built a bookshelf?

    I sometimes hear the same stuff about Adam, as if Adam wouldn’t have had to learn anything and as if Adam wouldn’t have made mistakes.

    In fact, it often sounds from these sorts of comments as if people think making mistakes is a form of sin (or at least a result of sin), as if it’s sin that makes people unable to build bookshelves or cook a good meal.

    Even before the Fall, though, work would have been hard. Not “sweat of your nose” hard, but hard. Hard, the way it’s hard to build a complicated bit of furniture and you have to experiment and fail, and try and fail again, and you end up with something not quite the way you wanted … and then you go out to the shop the next day to try again ’cause you love it.

    Or hard, the way it’s hard to figure out exactly what Bach is doing in a particular piece of music and you have to listen to it again and again and read and compare sheet after sheet of music and when you’ve wracked your brain about it, you still can’t figure it out and your compositions never sound so good, but you keep trying because you love Bach and you love music.

    The kind of hard that would drive a guy who didn’t share your love batty: he couldn’t imagine wanting to do that kind of work and wonders why you bother. But you know why and it’s not drudgery to you and it’s not the curse and when you’re not doing the work it calls to you and you can’t wait to get back to it.

    That’s the kind of work Adam had to do, and I’d bet that if he hadn’t fallen he would have done some of that sort of work. I don’t think the gold in Havilah was lying on the ground and it wouldn’t take too long for Adam to figure out that scratching at the ground with his fingernails was a mistake and then he’d have to invent tools by trial and error.

    Okay, this is longer than your original entry. Oops!

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