I am an artist, and sometimes I feel that way about my work. Why does it matter that I draw and paint and sell it and draw and paint some more? What difference does it make when the world is full of tragedy, people without homes and food, people dying and in need? In a world like this, why does art matter?
That is a big question. Academics have written and rewritten over and over why they think art matters. They look for some kind of answer in art that makes them feel bigger than themselves, something that makes a political statement, comments on social issues, or even makes change. It is not enough to simply make something beautiful—you have to say something for it to really be important.
Well, holding my art up next to that is humbling. My art makes no political statements that I’m aware of; it makes no comment on social issues. It is an act of tradition and of beauty. Can this hold up next to what the world of art deems to be “art”? What if it can’t?
Maybe you are not an artist, but I am sure that you have asked the very same question: “Is my work superfluous?”
Solomon asked the very same question. “What gain has the worker for his toil?” he asked in Ecclesiastes. He was a mighty king, a man of great wisdom and power. And yet still, even this man asked why his work mattered. I feel that question hang heavy some days. So why do I keep at it?
For one simple reason: my art is an act of obedience.
You see, I believe in a God who changes hearts, who changes me—and works His changes through those who cling to Him. I believe in a God who gives us gifts to use for His work in the world. We are given our gifts by the Lord to use them for His purpose. That purpose is not always clear to us, like it is not for me right now, but we can’t see the big picture. We only see the fragments in our range of vision. He sees it all, and makes it all beautiful. I do not say this lightly, for I have seen Him work in and through people in this way. I can only pray He uses me this way, too.
So how does this change things for me?
It means two things. One, that my art flows from my love for the Lord. It also means the outcome of my work is not in my hands. For Solomon answered his own question: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
I cannot see the big picture here. I desperately want to, but Solomon also pointed out that “he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” What does it mean to have eternity set in my heart? It means that I can feel the big picture. I know there is a God who is bigger than I know and yet I cannot know His entire plan and self. I know Him and yet what I know only scratches the surface. The eternity is our hearts is like an awareness that there is something bigger going on.
So do not fear, dear one. Your work matters to the Lord, no matter how small it seems to you. Whether you are a plumber, a bank teller, a CEO or just a friendly face at your local fast food place, the work you do matters to God. He is working a plan so much wider than the scope of our view that we can only sense it, not see it. One day we will see how every transaction, every phone call, every email plays a part in the steps towards the last day. This is the gift he gives to us: to be His hands making beauty in His time. Will you trust your work to Him?
“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 ESV