I have a friend who is a folk singer, Ed Holstein, and he said to me, he said, “Our parents just wanted jobs; we all want to be artists.” And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. You know, my dad was a Depression kid, he was in World War II; he just wanted a job. He wanted to come back and have a job. And then, you know, as you get money and the middle-class, you’re a middle-class kid, you want to be an artist and stuff like that.

Jack Clarke, cab driver and author, from NPR’s Fresh Air, August 23rd, 2010

I wanted to be an artist when I was a kid. I had sketchpads and would get painting kits for Christmas. I took extra art classes in junior high, and I thoroughly enjoyed art history. Pragmatism latter prevailed, and I changed my dream of being an artist to being an architect, which seemed like a mathematical artist who could make a living. Even now, as someone trained in nothing but pastoral ministry, that desire to be an artist – a musician, a writer, a painter, a poet – still whispers in my heart.

But, as Clarke points out, there was a generation that simply wanted to survive. They worked hard at jobs they didn’t necessarily “like” because they needed to provide for themselves and their family, and they were grateful to have the jobs they did. As Kevin Arnold’s dad would say when asked, “How was work?” in virtually every episode of the Wonder Years: “Work’s work.” A job pays the bills and nothing more.

Yet, in our day, the search for a job usually begins with questions like, “Will I enjoy doing this?” “Will this job maximize my gifts and talents?” Surely these and questions like them are not bad, but they are questions this generation and, at that, only a small segment of the world can ask – as Clarke says, they are the result of being a middle-class kid. Beyond self-fulfillment, it would seem that the desire to be “an artist” or to have a radically rewarding job could have little to do with a love for the arts and be more closely tied to a desire to invest in things that bring people life and joy, a desire to do something of greater significance than simply making enough money to live for a week. To be an artist is to create beauty, and who wouldn’t want to do that for a living?

Yet, from a Christian perspective, it would seem that is exactly what we are called to do, whether we dig ditches or write poetry; whether we are a stay-at-home mom or a sculptor. The mission of every child of God is not to have a job and simply survive, nor is it to find supreme satisfaction in my job and/or make enough money to give my children a better life than I have. Rather our mission in life is to proclaim and display the beauty of the gospel and the glory of God in the way we work, in how we love our spouse, in our care for our children, in extending mercy and grace to those in need, and in countless other realms of daily living. We are to bring true life and everlasting joy to people by painting a picture of who Christ is and what He has done to bring sinners like you and me into a right relationship with himself. As those who have been redeemed by Jesus, we are all artists, singing and writing and painting the good news of salvation with our lives so that the world will step back to behold the breathtaking beauty of the gospel and bow their knee before the King of kings.

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