Every inventor, artist, wordsmith, craft maker, author, poet, song writer, et cetera, can relate to this sensation. Even in our limited capacity, as those living outside of Eden, we know the satisfaction of a job well done. We know the thrill of a job worth doing.
A False Dichotomy
In his essay “Good Work and Good Works” C.S. Lewis celebrates work that is worth doing well and work that is well done. In keeping with the title Lewis deconstructs a false dichotomy, an unfortunate separation between good works, works of charity for example, verses good work, what might be called a noble trade.
Lewis gives the example of Jesus’ first miracle when he turned water into wine at a wedding party. It was a good work because Jesus met a real need of the wedding planners. It was good work because what Jesus produced was of such excellence as to be described as the best wine yet offered at the wedding. His miracle was good works and good work.
Sacred & Secular
Lewis, as usual, brings a subtle and beautiful brilliance to bare on the topic. Nancy Pearcey, in her book Total Truth, similarly illustrates the false separation between the sacred and the secular — between good work and good works. Percy’s point, not unlike Lewis’s, is that all of life is sacred. We cannot create an arbitrary wall that frames off selected work for which God is irrelevant.
That’s why Christians should rejoice in good work and good works. We should see quality craftsmanship not as the end goal, but as a means to glorify God and minister to our neighbors. That’s why Christians cannot see art, for example, as an end unto itself. It should be excellent, of course, but it should be more than that: it should be done for the glory of God and the good of our fellowman.
King Solomon once asked, “Do you see those skilled at their work?” to which he connects the outcome, “They will stand in the presence of kings, but not in the presence of the obscure.” The principle is that someone gifted and devoted in a particular craft will generally end up rising, like cream, to the top of their field.
It’s possible that Solomon’s original audience immediately thought of people like Bezalel and Oholiab. Scripture describes them as filled with “divine spirit, with skill, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft.”
If you’ve not heard their names don’t be too embarrassed. There’s not much said of them in the Bible. But, just so you know, they are the artists and engineers of the Old Testament Tabernacle. The fact that their names are provided in Scripture illustrates Solomon’s point. Gifted and devoted people leave a legacy.
I reflected on this truth this last week after learning of the death Nelson Chu, popularly known as DJ Official. Nelson Chu (September 16, 1976 – August 14, 2016) was a Grammy Award winning producer who worked with artists like Flame, Ambassador, Lecrae, Da TRUTH, Trip Lee, and others. After a long battle with a rare form of cancer, he finally entered the presence of the One for whom he had produced art throughout his life.
When I learned of his death I immediately thought of Proverbs 22:29. Do you see a man skilled in his work? He won’t stand before common men. He will perform before kings. Now DJ Official is indeed in the presence of the King.
In response to this I want to evaluate my own view of good work and good works. I hope you’ll do the same. As Christians, may we be committed to work worth doing and to work that is done well. This is worship. From this perspective, all of life is, properly understood.
So, sometime in the near future, if you complete a job and you step back, cross your arms, and through a smile with a contented sigh say, “It is good,” I hope you hear a faint echo of Eden. If God has given you a gift, no matter how small it might seem, use it for his glory and the benefit of others. That might transform the way you see your work and your works. It might even transform you.