Arts & Culture & At Work

How Culture Making Brings Glory to God

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Previously we asked the question, how can we know that our work is bringing glory to God when it doesn’t seem all that special?

The answer for Christians is to understand our vocational contributions as artifacts of the larger process of culture making. That may sound pleasant enough, you may be thinking, but how does culture making bring glory to God?

The Beauty in the Small, Masterful Details

To answer this question, let’s start with an example from popular culture:

“Did you hear that? They’ve shut down the main reactor. We’ll be destroyed for sure. This is madness! We’re doomed. There’ll be no escape for the Princess this time.” – C-3PO

You may recognize those words as the opening lines of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In an interview for BBC America’s miniseries The Real History of Science Fiction, Anthony Daniels, the man inside the C-3PO suit, spoke about his experience making the film. He recalled that during the filming, the actors lacked the big picture. They didn’t know how the bizarre scenery and dialogue they acted out each day played into the final story, and at times they were greatly discouraged.

One day on the way to the set, Daniels joked with Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) that if the film flops, everyone will know that Hamill was in the film, but they may not know that he was because he’s in a suit the whole time.

However, when Daniels finally saw the movie and heard his voice deliver that opening line, he called it “masterful.” All of the little pieces, random scenes, and short lines fell into place, and he saw the whole story unfold before his eyes. He points out how much meaning those few short sentences convey. These strange robots are on a vessel that is under attack, there is a princess who is escaping from something—and she’s done it before.

It’s these masterful small details that were brought together to create one of the largest driving elements of modern culture. But even the actors that made the masterpiece didn’t know its greatness until it was complete.

Working in Our Small Role

No matter what your vocation, what your interests, or your God-given talents, you are making culture in small ways every day. Our friend Elise Daniel once put it this way

We should all have a strong sense of hope and optimism about making a real difference in the world through our vocation, no matter what our age might be. But we shouldn’t expect “changing the world” to feel like we’re on top of a mountain. Most moments will feel ordinary.

This is when faith in Christ should have the most impact on one’s work, even if our work seems boring at times. Especially when our work seems boring!

In all our choices, including our professional ones, we should aim to be a good steward of our gifts and talents and glorify God through our contributions to culture. In the terminology of J.R.R. Tolkien, we are “sub-creators” reflecting the Imago Dei in our work, and we should therefore seek to do so with God-glorifying excellence.

It’s the combination of these small cultural artifacts which we make every day through our professional choices, done with excellence, which reweave shalom and will help pave the way for Christ’s coming kingdom.

Today we see only our small parts, but someday we will see the whole picture (1 Cor. 13:12). I have no doubt that we will stand in awe and call it “masterful.”

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