Joseph’s Work and Your Work

By Mark D. Roberts

December 24, 2019

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:4-7 (NIV)


First of all, I’d like to wish you a joyous Christmas Eve!

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion I began reflecting on work in the Christmas story. Mary’s work in giving birth to Jesus and then raising him drew our attention, reminding us that our work as human beings includes more than what we do for pay. Some of the most important and precious human work receives compensation far beyond a paycheck.

statues of mary, joseph, and baby jesus with a starry backgroundToday I’d like to think with you about Joseph’s work. Of course he did not participate in the conception of Jesus in the normal way fathers do. His was a unique case. But Joseph surely had much work to do when it came to the birth of Jesus.

For example, Luke 2:4 says that “Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Though we can’t be sure of the precise route Joseph took, it’s likely that his trip was about 90 miles. The traditional picture of Joseph walking aside a donkey on which Mary rode is a reasonable representation of what actually happened. But, no matter the details, we can surely agree that a 90-mile journey by foot or on an animal, a journey which included caring for a very pregnant wife, involved a lot of work!

Luke does not tell us what Joseph did to secure a location for Mary to give birth, though we rightly infer that this was not an easy task. Nor do we have a picture of the work Joseph did in support of Mary and in caring for the newborn Jesus. But our imaginations can fill in the blanks here. Though Mary’s work was absolutely central, Joseph’s participation was essential. This would continue to be true as Jesus grew up, especially when he became old enough to be apprenticed into his earthly father’s trade.

As I think about Joseph’s work in this story, I’m reminded of how much of our work in life gets little attention, little fanfare. Like Joseph, we don’t show up in the story as it’s usually told. I’m not complaining about this, mind you. But I am encouraged to be faithful in the work God has called me to do whether or not anybody notices. The work itself has value. The work itself contributes to God’s work in the world. Moreover, even if nobody appreciates my behind-the-scenes efforts, God sees my work and is honored by my faithfulness. The same is true for you in the “Joseph work” of your life.

Something to Think About:

When you think of Joseph’s work in the Christmas story, what strikes you?

In what ways is your work like that of Joseph in this story, largely behind the scenes?

When you do good work that isn’t noticed, how do you feel? How do you experience God’s affirmation for your work?

Something to Do:

Identify someone in your life, perhaps a colleague, or the checkout person in the local grocery—you name it. Find someone whose work is behind the scenes and affirm this person and his or her work.


Gracious God, today I thank you for Joseph and his work in the Christmas story. Though most of this is behind the scenes, it is nevertheless essential.

Help me, Lord, to do my backstage work with faithfulness. May I know that you are pleased when I do faithfully what has been entrusted to me. Help me to be more like Joseph today and in the days to come. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Jesus Was (Probably) a Carpenter

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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