We live in a time of overlap between the ages. What one theologian called “the time between the times.” Because so many people are blind to God’s glory, we, as God’s people, are to live in such a way that people start to see God’s presence and beauty. But notice Paul’s examples. “Whether you eat or drink . . .” What could be more ordinary and humdrum than eating and drinking? And then Paul says, “or whatever you do.” Wow, so no matter what it is we do — everything — the most mundane, unimportant stuff in our life, should be “for the glory of God.”
So the question is, how do we glorify God with all of our lives, not just the overtly “spiritual” stuff? But with everything we do — all the way down to eating and drinking?
For some people, it’s an easy answer. If you’re a pastor or a “missionary” or a parent or an artist or you work for a faith-based nonprofit — somewhere you can openly talk about Jesus. Then it’s clear.
But what if you’re an executive assistant at an attorney’s office? Or a mechanic for your local Toyota dealership? Or an insurance broker? How do you glorify God with your life’s work?
Well, here’s my take: we’re the image of God, remember? Our job is to make the invisible God visible — to mirror and mimic what he is like to the world. We can glorify God by doing our work in such a way that we make the invisible God visible by what we do and how we do it.
Let’s take each one in turn. First off, by what we do . . .
The Anglican writer John Stott said the kind of work we’re called to is, “The expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community, and glory to God.”
Most of us get the first part of that definition: “Fulfillment to the worker” — Ideally, your work should be a vocation, a calling, work that you feel God made you to do and that you love. And a lot of us get the second part: “Benefit to the community” — it should make the world into a more Garden-like place. But what about “glory to God”? How do we do that?
Well, if God’s glory is his presence and beauty, then, as I see it, we glorify God by reshaping the raw materials of the world in such a way that, for those with eyes to see, God’s glory and presence are made visible.
When we see a piece of art, we see behind the art and get a glimpse of what the artist is like.
In the same way, when we see creation, we see behind the creation and get a picture of what the Creator is like.
In Romans we read, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Theologians call this general revelation. It’s the idea that every- body everywhere has at least some revelation of who God is and what he’s like, just by living in his world. Romans is just picking up on the Hebrew poetry we read earlier: “The heavens speak of the glory of God.”
How does a star “speak of the glory of God”? It’s an inanimate object. It makes no sound, much less language — how does it speak?
By being a star.
How does a tree speak of the glory of God?
By being a tree.
How does a lion speak?
By roaring loud.
How does a flower speak?
By unfolding its color every spring.
When we see the world in the shape that God intended, the way it’s supposed to be, God gets glory, without a word.
As people made in God’s image, we can join him in this ongoing creative work. As his partners, we can reshape the raw materials of his world in such a way that people see the beauty behind the beauty.
We can’t make the world — but we can remake it into a macchiato, a building, an app, a dress, a book, a meal, a school, a cure, a song, a business, or ten thousand other things in such a way that for those with eyes to see — the invisible God’s presence and beauty are more than visible — they are glaring and inescapable.
This means we need to learn how to value beauty for beauty’s sake. Maybe even for God’s sake.
Maybe this is why, historically, some of the world’s greatest artists have been followers of Jesus. They had such a compelling vision of God that they had to reshape the world to help others see who he is and what he’s like. In fact, the first time we read the phrase “filled with the Spirit of God,” it’s in the book of Exodus . . .
So the first person who is “filled with the Spirit of God” isn’t a prophet or a priest or a king — he’s an artist. And what was the Spirit of God doing in him? Giving him “wisdom, with understanding” and “knowledge” and “all kinds of skills” to make art.
Sometimes in our quest against injustice and greed and waste and in our passion to steward the wealth of the West in a kingdom-of-God-like way, it’s easy to overreact and devalue the things that God himself values, like art or beauty. But that’s a problem, because we worship an artist God.
As people made in his image — all work is artistic. All work is inherently creative. All work — from painting to parenting — is reshaping the raw materials of Planet Earth in such a way that it’s how God intended, how it’s supposed to be, all so humans can thrive as they see God’s glory.