work of art

This is another RBC devotional I wrote for this month (next month Our Daily Journey goes live).  I may have tried to fit too much theology into it.  Let me know if you think it is too dense.


read > Colossians 3:23

Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.


Michelangelo had begun what figured to be his crowning achievement—chiseling marble statues for the tomb of Pope Julius II—when the pope pulled him away for a menial task unworthy of the artist’s great skill.  Michelangelo protested that many lesser painters could repair the plaster ceiling of the pope’s chapel, and he fled Rome in a futile attempt to avoid doing it.  He detested the pope for forcing him into this assignment—some scholars believe that his fresco contains a cherub “giving the finger” to an Old Testament prophet who looks suspiciously like Julius—but Michelangelo gave it his best and transformed a repair job into the masterpiece of the Sistine Chapel.

        Despite Michelangelo’s cryptic insult to the pope, his commitment to always do his best typifies Paul’s command to the Colossians to “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord.”  Why does Paul say that our work is “for the Lord”?

        Earlier in Colossians Paul declares that Jesus is the Creator, “the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth” (Colossians 1:16).  If Jesus is the Creator, then he is the one who “placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it” (Genesis 2:15) and who commanded Adam and Eve to “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).  Theologians call this initial command the “cultural mandate,” for humans who follow it inevitably produce higher forms of culture. 

Where does your job fit into this picture?  How does what you do serve others and contribute to the development of culture?  Answer that question and you will discover how your work is “for the Lord.”  Then give him your cheerful best, whether you are doing a repair job, painting a masterpiece, or both.—Mike Wittmer


more > Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ (Colossians 3:24).


next > The biblical importance of work led Luther and Calvin to describe every job as a divine calling.  How might this perspective change how you think about work and the way you work? 


Add yours →

  1. Very nice. Personally, I would like even more theology!

    For a “popular” devotional, I think this is a very satisfying entry and it should not only encourage the reader in his/her thoughtful contemplation of “work” but should also spur the reader to further biblical investigation of his/her participation in our “cultural mandate” as we live our lives in this world.

    (Whew! Tthat was a fairly long sentence for a product of the MTV generation…don’t you think?)


  2. I liked it, though the expression “giving the finger” will not sit well with the typical “Daily Bread” reader.

  3. Ray:

    It’s not for The Daily Bread, but for the Daily Journey, which is written for edgy, hip 30 year olds. The precise expression the scholar used is “giving the fig” (I guess that’s what they called it in the 16th century). I’ll alert the editor to see if he wants to take that out.

  4. This thread caused me to dig into history. I didn’t realize that “giving the finger”, “fig”…dates back 2,000 or perhaps more years! There is nothing new under the sun. I personally am unable to see the angel “giving the finger” in the painting (online).

    I would have shared the same comment as Ray if this was for the Our Daily Bread.

    There does seem to be an underlying message of “I’ll show you”, that could detract from “as though you are working for the Lord”.

  5. Mike,

    Beth read your post and she thought it had an appropriate amount of theology. She did think the bit about the cherub was irrelevant, not inappropriate, and it obfuscated the first paragraph. Her main criticism, however, is that she doesn’t see a clear connection between Gen 1:28 and “higher forms of culture” (whatever you mean by that – she wasn’t sure).

    Personally, I agree with Yooper that Michelangelo has more of a “see what I can do” attitude, but the point comes through nonetheless.

  6. Yooper:

    That point is controversial, but the fig is more of a fist and less of a finger. I’m only going by what I saw on Nightline, so this could be way off.


    My point was that as we obey God we inevitably produce higher forms of culture, but I see how that could ambiguously indicate that lower forms are not important. I’ll look into that.

  7. Mike:

    Beth was confused on what you meant by “culture” not a distinction between higher and lower forms. I apologize for not voicing my wife’s criticism more clearly.

  8. Mike:

    To further clarify, Beth was unsure which of the three verbs from Gen 1:28 constitutes culture. In our discussion, she didn’t see that procreation and migration were truly “cultural” and that even subduing the earth is too vague and vacuous to clarify what a “cultural mandate” is.

  9. Mike,

    Thanks for the clarification as to the intended audience and also for the expression “giving the fig.” I recind my objections. Giving a fig is a kind gesture and they are high in fiber.

  10. Ray:

    Even a fig newton? I replaced “giving the finger” with “making an obscene gesture.” This seems to soften it, although the finger is the only obscene gesture I can think of. I’ve never tried any, so I’m only going by what I’ve seen in movies.

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