Finding the Higher Purpose for Our Creative Work

The room was as crowded as a theater lobby at the opening of a blockbuster movie. But unlike a theater, people spoke in hushed voices as they gazed up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I wanted to see every detail of Michelangelo’s masterpiece—God separating darkness and light and reaching out to touch Adam with the spark of life. I’d been studying pictures of these frescoes for years, but the real thing moved me to tears by its beauty and the talent of the artist. Michelangelo was a super star in his own day, but as a Christian, he knew his work had a higher purpose.

In my first post on what it means to be a Christian working in creative fields, the children’s catechism reminded us to humbly acknowledge that our talents are gifts from our Creator, remembering also that we’re sub-creators, creating from the wonderful profusion of all God has made.

But why does God give such gifts to artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people? Children’s catechism question 3 can help us see the higher purpose of our creative gifts. 

Question 3 asks, Why did God make you and all things? Answer: For his own glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

A few years ago I heard Paul David Tripp tell about a child’s birthday party. As the birthday child opened presents, another child complained about not getting presents, too. The child’s mother went over to the child and said, “It’s not about you today.”

We all laughed, but Tripp reminded us that we adults may view the world that way, too—it’s all about us. And these days, when building a platform is so important, it’s easy to get caught up in how talented we are, how many followers we have, and what our sales figures are.

How do we keep in mind our higher purpose of glorifying God? The following 2 catechism questions and answers give us 6 ways we, as creative Christians, can use our gifts to glorify God:

Question 4. How can you glorify God? Answer: By loving him and doing what he commands.

Question 76. What is the sum of the ten commandments? Answer: To love God with all my heart, and my neighbor as myself.

1.To love and worship God (Romans 12:1) In Echoes of Eden, Jerram Barrs writes:

. . . all creative work is a form of praise and worship: by creating

we declare the glory of God, who made us in his likeness.

 2. To care for and use God’s creation wisely (Genesis 1:27-30 and Psalm 8:6) In Culture Care, artist and author Makoto Fujimura writes:

God is the great artist, and we are God’s artists called

to steward the creation entrusted to our care.

3.To enjoy and develop the gifts God has given us (1 Timothy 4:4-5) Michelangelo once said,

For those who feel it, nothing makes the soul so religious and pure as

the endeavor to create something perfect; for God is perfection, and

whoever strives after it, is striving after something divine. . .

The Pieta by Michelangelo, St Peters, Rome, author photo

4.To proclaim Christ to the world (Matthew 28:18-20) In Scribbling in the Sand, musician and writer, Michael Card writes about the time Jesus confronted the Pharisees by scribbling in the sand (John 8:1-11):

What Jesus did that morning created a space in time that allowed the angry

mob first to cool down, then to hear his word, and finally to think about it and

respond—or not . . . . If what we create, write, dance or sing can open up such

a space in time through which God may speak, imagine the possibilities!

5.To be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16) In Echoes of Eden, Jerram Barrs writes:

We are called, in all we do, including in our creative work, to set back

            the boundaries of the fall, to restrain the abnormality of our present

            human life in its brokenness and sorrow and of our present world that

            is under the curse and therefore resists our dominion.

6.To serve and benefit our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40 and 20:28) In Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle says:

The artist who is a Christian, like any other Christian, is required

to be in this world, but not of it. We are to be in this world as

healers, as listeners, and as servants

Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel shows the full story of redemption—the glory of God’s creation, mankind’s rebellion, redemption through God’s grace in Christ, and the hope of our final restoration. Michelangelo loved working with stone and paint and spent a lifetime developing the gifts God had given him. Even at the end of his long life, his sculptures showed his higher purpose—his love for God and the grace of redemption.

Photography isn’t allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but this portrait of Michelangelo (detail of Raphael’s School of Athens), is located in an anteroom to the chapel, author photo

What are some ways you remain mindful of your higher purpose in your stories, articles, and devotions?

Kathy O’Neill is an art teacher who loves to show everyone they can draw. Visit her website to discover more about her writing and workshops, and her blog for a Christian view of great art and related projects and devotions for children. Kathy’s goal is to engage children’s and adult’s hearts, hands and minds to discover God and their own creativity through art, history, and nature

7 thoughts on “Finding the Higher Purpose for Our Creative Work

    1. I’m glad this brought back memories for you of the Sistine Chapel! what an amazing place, and with so much to learn! Thank you, Joyce, for commenting.

    1. Thank you, Carol! I’m learning so much as I study the writings of these Christian writers, artists, and musicians, and I hope some of it is helpful to others.

  1. Kathy, this is such a beautiful and inspiring post. One of the ways I try to remain mindful of my higher purpose is to give each writing project a theme Scripture…sometimes more! I write these in the journal I create for each manuscript, usually with scrapbooking crafts.

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