Wednesday

Paying Rent on a Fishing Boat


In Luke, chapter five, Jesus borrows Peter’s boat, pushes out from shore, and teaches the crowd.

But after he was through teaching, an interesting thing happened: it’s as if Jesus performs a miracle in order to pay Pete for the use of his boat: 

4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink

There are several lessons that could be, and no doubt have been, taught from this passage, about obedience, about team ministry, about trials in God’s blessings. But the one that stuck out to me today was this:

Jesus is not afraid of making his kids wealthy.

For some years, I lived in a fishing community in the Northwest. I was surprised to learn that some of the local commercial fishing boats would consider the night’s fishing profitable if they caught eight or ten salmon. They could sell the fish for enough to pay the costs of running the boat for the night, the wear and tear on their equipment, and still make themselves a paycheck.

But here, Jesus gives them so many fish that it swamps two commercial fishing boats. Admittedly they built fishing boats differently in the first century than in the twenty-first century, but it’s very clear that this one catch was way more than the optimistic boat-builders had planned for.

A catch like that could provide enough money to live off of for several months, maybe longer, while the fishermen spent their time hanging around Jesus and learning from him. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that this one catch was six months’ worth of income for their families: for us, that’s a lot of money, maybe tens of thousands of dollars.

There are a couple of interesting observations about the process which Jesus used to pay rent on Pete’s boat:

  • Peter never offered to rent his boat to Jesus. He never offered Jesus use of the boat. Jesus intrudes: he just stepped into the boat of the fisherman who had failed at his work all night, and asked to be pushed out from the shore. Jesus intrudes on Peter’s failure and expects Peter to comply with his request. I don’t think it’s too much to infer that Jesus just might break in on our own lives, even in the “ungodly” place of self-pity, and use us.

  • “Being used by God” sometimes looks like it did for Peter: sitting on your sore backside, wishing you were doing something else, while he’s talking to other people about things you don’t really understand.

  • Then Jesus told (he didn’t ask) Peter to do something foolish: to waste some more time and energy on something that hasn’t worked, to invest some more in the place of Pete’s failure. Worse: Pete is a professional fisherman, and he knows that this is the wrong time to catch fish (that’s why he’d been out all night: night is better fishing time on that lake), and this preacher-guy is trying to tell him how to do his job.

  • Jesus didn’t just write Pete a check or a bag of silver coins for the use of the boat. He badgered Pete into working some more, and then he blessed the work that Pete did. Jesus used the vehicle of Pete’s own hard work (harder than he expected it to be: that was a lot of fish!) to drop twenty thousand bucks (or however much) into Pete’s checking account. While it’s not the only way Jesus does things, it’s a common one (Matthew 17:27)

  • It was when Peter put the net down at Jesus’ direction that the freaky harvest came in. It happened again, almost the same way, after Jesus had raised from the dead, in John 21.

  • But Jesus wasn’t afraid to drop a large chunk of wealth into the hands of an untrained fisherman. He didn’t give Peter a six-week lesson on How to Handle Money, or remind him about the importance of tithing if you expect God to bless you. He just blessed his socks off; and nearly sank his boat.

  • Peter recognized the presence of God in the sudden appearance of slippery, flopping wealth sinking his boat and his partner’s! His response: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Jesus uses that moment of spiritual openness to give Peter a new job: “From now on you will catch men.”

By way of application, I find myself reflecting on these action points:

  1. It’s probably good to let Jesus intrude on my day-to-day trudging. Maybe even invite him in.

  1. I probably need to re-evaluate what it means to be “used by God,” so that there’s a whole lot less confusion. Sitting on my butt, if he’s asked me to sit, can be frightfully profitable ministry, though it doesn’t look so impressive on the resume or the Facebook page.

  1. I need to guard against resentment: fancy expectations (see #2 above), intrusions on my life (#1 above) and failures.

  1. If I’m asking God for money, perhaps I should ask him to bless my job. That seems to be something he does pretty well.

  1. And I remind myself: when I experience that transition from discouragement to fruitfulness, don’t be surprised if you get a new assignment from Heaven during that season.





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