Working in the Workshop of the Most High Artist
If stewardship responsibility applies so strictly in regard to your body, it applies even more decidedly to your mind, to every talent that God has given you in your mind and in your life. “For all things are yours,” the apostle says [1 Cor 3:21]. There is nothing that the subjects of King Jesus may not take up into their lives. Our King does not take his subjects out of the world. He has no use for the Anabaptist avoidance of society. The only thing to be avoided is what is sinful and unclean, but created things as such are not to be avoided. To one who is clean, everything is clean. Jesus does not clip your wings at all. He does not tie your wings to your body. Instead his will is that you spread your wings proudly and freely. The richer your life becomes, the better it is.
With the one exception of what is sinful, you need not exclude from your personal life anything at all in the world. The stream of life is very broad, and as you swim in it you need to stretch your arms out as widely as you can. The more powers, gifts, and talents that are deployed in you, the better. Christ wants you to grow to full maturity. Remember only that all things are yours, but that you, together with all these things, are Christ’s. You work in the workshop of the Most High Artist, and the more fine and noble things you produce under him, the better. But remember this alone: that when the art you produce is exhibited, it will not bear your name but the name of Christ, because it was his Spirit who inspired you.
He will give you honor, but you may not reach for that honor yourself. The one sacred incentive that ought to drive you is to strive and work for him, for his honor, for his glory. You are no more than an instrument, and it is he who works through you and in you. As Paul says: “with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” [Col 1:29]. A preacher who has preached a good sermon may never receive the acclaim and gratitude of believers for himself, but he must give thanks to his Sender who gave him the ability. Therefore, if you ever accomplish, produce, or establish anything on account of which people burn incense to you, you are to give the honor for and in all of these things to your King. All things are yours, but you with all these things belong to Christ. You are his possession, his instrument, his servant.
It naturally follows that they err who think that the service we owe to Christ our King is found only in what is extraordinary and is specifically called Christian. To become a pastor, deacon, or elder, to devote oneself to missions or Christian philanthropy, to serve in a hospital or infirmary, to work with alcoholics, to seek the lost, and in short, everything that has a distinctly Christian appearance, undoubtedly has its appeal. With all of these things, it is as if you stand more directly in the service of your King. People value these acts more, and you will soon find yourself saying that you are devoting your life to the service of Christ in a special way. And yet, you can do all of these things without ever denying yourself in them for the sake of Christ. As long as you seek your own pleasure, your own merit, your own acclaim in these things, then your reward is lost, and you show yourself to be acting in an unchristian manner in things that in and of themselves are specifically Christian. What is more, these things are in fact actually much easier. If you choose this route, you are fighting one battle and making a choice. But once that choice has been made, the battle is over, and the one pleasure that you denied yourself is replaced by another, much sweeter pleasure. Consider those as blessed, therefore, who have been called to labor in this specifically Christian work, because they who seek their King in this work and not themselves seek a royal inheritance.
At the same time, you may not for that reason exclude your ordinary life from your King. There may be hundreds who are called to specifically Christian labor, but there are thousands who live an ordinary life upon which Jesus lays his claim as well.
Here too he wants everyone to deny themselves in order to serve and glorify him. The service that we owe him in our ordinary life is much more burdensome. The attraction of the world is much stronger in this ordinary life, and the incentive to devote yourself to your King much weaker. This call means that you must serve your King in the small and petty things of life, in the trivial. Moreover, the people around you may not feel that you can also fulfill your service to your King in doing these things. People pay much less attention to you. Your portrait will not hang in any gallery. An article about your zealous efforts for your King will never appear in print. You will not receive the same fame and acclaim as others do. And yet housewives in their families, servants in the quiet circle of their work, men in their daily business and interaction with their employees, doctors among their patients, lawyers with their clients, and all kinds of others in their ordinary life display the image of the King, deny themselves, and let themselves be led by him such that all things are theirs, yet they are Christ’s.
These people themselves say: is the honor they bring to our King any less valuable?
This commentary is adapted from a chapter in Abraham Kuyper, Pro Rege: Living under Christ’s Kingship, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, forthcoming), part of the twelve volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series sponsored by the Acton Institute.