At MakeJesusCulture.com we had several speakers talk on toil and suffering in their work. One of them was Harrison Hollingsworth, the New York City ballet conductor and bassoonist who leads worshippers at Redeemer Presbyterian Downtown.
His main talk revolved around how meaningless our toil is without relationships – particularly relationship with the father of heavenly lights. And this of course applies to all made things, whether manual or fine, all crafts, all arts. It is God who gives meaning to all things because the meaning of all things is God in Christ.
Which is why we end up with phrases in scripture about how our work must be tested by fire and refined and cleansed. Even the Catholic idea of purgatory, though not biblical, has less to do with a bus stop between heaven and hell, less still to do with a sort of limbo state imagined as a sort of one-horse town between the “big city” and the “wild.” Rather we simply point out what scripture points out in 1 Cor. 3:15 and 1 Pe. 1:7, that in order to enter fully into our resurrected state our work and our bodies and our person will be cleansed with a fire that is not the fire of hell, but a fire of acquaintance, so that we may get used to being in the presence of God. This applies to our work as well, which will be tested.
Most things, however, end up as toil because most things we do have little lasting significance: we underestimate how frivolous and petty and selfish we truly act from day to day and how many of these things fall to the wayside when it comes time to weigh our efforts. How many things have been forgotten by men? How many works have been praised though their authors have remained nameless or grown anonymous as history does its weathering work?
The Artist’s Toil reminds us both that our work is in vain and our work is not in vain, depending on whether or not it’s infused with the virtue of God and the meaning of Christ and entrusted to him like fishes and loaves to feed the multitude rather than taken by us for our own glory or fame or fortune.
If we’re made not to be served, but to serve – if we’re made so that He must increase and we must decrease – then how does that apply to our work?
*For further reading in the Bible: 1st Corinthians 3:15; 1st Peter 1:7; Zechariah 13
Accompanying this study is over 300-Hours of video footage from 150 of today’s top Christian thinkers on culture, creativity, innovation, and invention at www.makejesusculture.com and www.gardencityproject.com. We aim to help churches develop grass roots culture formation for their contexts. Go now!