Craftsmanship, Construction, and Business Ethics in the Bible

I read through the Bible at least once per year—something I’ve been doing since at least 2007. There’s something about a book written by the Creator, the Father of a carpenter, and delighting in a story that unfolds one large plan for mankind. And, just like many construction projects (or difficult clients), we’ve made it a rather convoluted and messy affair instead of ticking to the original plan. Having already written about tools in the bible, I wanted to turn my attention to other topics of interest to any craftman, or carpenter. As an avid student of the bible, it’s remarkable how many verses deal with construction, craftsmanship, business ethics, or similar topics. Here are some of my favorites, divided into an unprioritized list of topics.

What the Bible Says About Preparation When Beginning a Construction Project

Before doing anything worth doing, you typically prepare. If you don’t, things often don’t go well. The Bible seems to really reinforce this—giving us a clue that maybe, just maybe, we should slow down a bit on the front end to consider what we’re about to embark upon—whether it be building a house, making a tough decision, or leading our family.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
– Proverbs 24:3-4

Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.
– Proverbs 24:27

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
– Luke 14:28

What the Bible Says About Fair Compensation, Workers, and Diligence

Before any government rules about equity came into being, the Bible lead with some guidance on how exactly you should treat those who work for you and live near you. It also speaks a lot about hard work, diligence, and not being lazy. If you want to eat, you should work hard. Nothing good comes of laziness anywhere in the Bible…and the same holds true today.

“You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.
– Leviticus 19:13

“You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns.
– Deuteronomy 24:14

A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.
– Proverbs 16:26

The desire of the sluggard kills him,
for his hands refuse to labor.
All day long he craves and craves,
but the righteous gives and does not hold back.

– Proverbs 21:25–26

Through sloth the roof sinks in,
and through indolence the house leaks.

– Ecclesiastes 10:18

Notable Craftsman in the Bible

From Noah to the workers who built the temples of God, the Bible highlights many men blessed by Him to work wondrous things with their hands. It’s a great thing to take the skills that God gave you, develop them over time, and pass them on to others. It’s even better when you can put those skills to work to serve Him! Is there a way you can serve others through the gifts and skills God has given you? Maybe the verses below will inspire you.

And God said to Noah…Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks.
– Genesis 6:13a, 14–16

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.
– Exodus 35:30–35

And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work.
– 1 Kings 7:13-14

The Bible on Responsibility and Safety (These Predate OSHA Regulations!)

Before OSHA, the Bible was laying down some examples of how to work safely and with care and restitution for your fellow man. We should all care about how we work and that we work in a way that’s safe, not only for us, but also for others.

“When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.
– Exodus 21:33-34

“If a man gives to his neighbor a donkey or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep safe, and it dies or is injured or is driven away, without anyone seeing it, an oath by the Lord shall be between them both to see whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. The owner shall accept the oath, and he shall not make restitution. But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. If it is torn by beasts, let him bring it as evidence. He shall not make restitution for what has been torn. “If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution. If the owner was with it, he shall not make restitution; if it was hired, it came for its hiring fee.
– Exodus 22:10-15

“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.
– Deuteronomy 22:8

An Intricately Beautiful and Specific Design…

Sometimes when the Bible describes a particular project—like the building of Solomon’s temple, you really get a feel for the immense beauty and craftsmanship that went into it. These projects were meant to honor God, and so the craftsman involved poured everything they had into it—creating the various portions of building and furniture for both glory (to honor God’s holiness) and beauty (to reflect His glory and direct people to it through beauty).

Do you take the time to enjoy the projects you work on? There is a certain way in which anything we build reflects the creativity of our Maker. After all, he is the author of all that is good. Getting the opportunity to create something, anything, as a result of his blessings upon us should help us enjoy everything we do as unique chance to be an image of the one who created everything.

He also made the ten stands of bronze. Each stand was four cubits long, four cubits wide, and three cubits high. This was the construction of the stands: they had panels, and the panels were set in the frames, and on the panels that were set in the frames were lions, oxen, and cherubim. On the frames, both above and below the lions and oxen, there were wreaths of beveled work. Moreover, each stand had four bronze wheels and axles of bronze, and at the four corners were supports for a basin. The supports were cast with wreaths at the side of each. Its opening was within a crown that projected upward one cubit. Its opening was round, as a pedestal is made, a cubit and a half deep.

At its opening there were carvings, and its panels were square, not round. And the four wheels were underneath the panels. The axles of the wheels were of one piece with the stands, and the height of a wheel was a cubit and a half. The wheels were made like a chariot wheel; their axles, their rims, their spokes, and their hubs were all cast. There were four supports at the four corners of each stand. The supports were of one piece with the stands. And on the top of the stand there was a round band half a cubit high; and on the top of the stand its stays and its panels were of one piece with it.

And on the surfaces of its stays and on its panels, he carved cherubim, lions, and palm trees, according to the space of each, with wreaths all around. After this manner he made the ten stands. All of them were cast alike, of the same measure and the same form.
– 1 Kings 7:27-37

Remember That Everything We Build is Merely a “Thing”

It’s often good to remind ourselves of our place in the universe. While we can participate in creating truly wondrous and beautiful things—they are just that—things. In terms of priority, God, family, and our neighbor matter much more than any other created thing. Be proud of what you accomplish in life—but be even more pleased with the blessings you’ve been given and seek to pass on those blessings when you can.

for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
        and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. 
    They decorate it with silver and gold;
        they fasten it with hammer and nails
        so that it cannot move. 
    Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
        and they cannot speak;
    they have to be carried,
        for they cannot walk.
    Do not be afraid of them,
        for they cannot do evil,
        neither is it in them to do good.”

– Jeremiah 10:3-5

A Great Verse to Carry with You Always

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
– Philippians 2:3

If you got this far—thanks for reading! I enjoyed the research and time spent digging up these passages (all of which were taken from the ESV Bible). It always amazes me, the wisdom contained in the Bible and the many issues it addresses that can really provide help and guidance as we seek to live an honorable life. I hope this was helpful and that you have a blessed week as a result!

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