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Tentmaking Until the Economic Stimulus

African American news from Pasadena - Professor Jamal-Dominique HopkinsAfter this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together-- by trade they were tentmakers. (NRSV, Acts 18:1-3)

In the preceding passage, Paul, after having ministered in Athens, met up with a fellow Jew name Aquila who had just fled Rome after being banned by the emperor. No doubt Aquila and others like him were facing economic struggles in light this banishment. Uprooted from the normalcy and familiarity of daily life, these banished residents required basic sustenance, accommodations and a sense of security which comes from an economic stimulus. His vocational trade afforded him the opportunity to recover.

Against the backdrop of the recent bipartisan break over the Job's bill moving through Congress, Americans have relentlessly suffered job's loss even before the economic downturn. The anticipated passage of the job's bill is viewed as sparking hope and economic stimulation across the American landscape. Similar to the narrative account in our Acts passage, some like Aquila and Paul, as well as Jesus who was a carpenter by trade, are able to fall back on a 'tentmaking' vocation. Aquila, facing a touch struggle met up with Paul where both are noted as working together "because he [Paul] was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together – by trade they were tentmakers."

Working a trade afforded Aquila and Paul flexibility and, more importantly, self-employment and independence. As a biblical model, these formative individuals found avenues of work despite the market and social infrastructure. During this time, these tradesmen worked for currency, food, shelter, or whatever other needs. Despite the mood of most, the creation of jobs yet fails to fill a deeper void: a self sense of investment, flexibility and viability. Tentmaking is a biblical model most of us should take note of. When I was eighteen years old, my father sent me to tentmaking [trade] school. When it feels like I have been banished by my profession, society, or even fighting through an economic downturn, I know how to make tents.

[Dr. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins is Director of J.D.Institute and is a Professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA. He is the author of "Ecclesiastes" in the African Bible: Reading Israel's Scriptures through Africa and the African Diaspora (Fortress Press), 2009, and "Duty or Responsibility? The African American Evangelical's Identity" in the Journal of African American Christian Thought 1 (2009). Hopkins is available for preaching, lecturing, speaking or conducting workshops or seminars. You may contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .]


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