Author, playwright, poet, and Christian apologist, Dorothy Sayers, once wrote, “What we make is more important than what we are, particularly if ‘making’ is our profession.”
By professional “making,” Sayers was referring particularly to artists. But in reality, all of us are makers, whatever our profession. Making is not solely the realm of artists. God has bestowed on all humans the incredible privilege of being sub-creators. We all make things all the time. And our making is of great importance to God.
What’s More Important?
But is it true that what we make is more important than what we are?
In one sense, yes, it is. What we make should be measured against the objective standards of whatever is true, pure, lovely, excellent, and good, as defined by God (Philippians 4:8). Our personal failings don’t alter those things. As a Christian, Sayers was painfully aware of her own sin and faith struggles. Yet she was convinced of the truth of Christianity and contended for it in her writing and speaking. She believed that her personal failings did not invalidate that truth. And in that sense, she was right.
But in the ultimate sense, what we make is not more important than what we are. As Sayers’s friend, C.S. Lewis, explained,
If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of the state or civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment.
Each of us is “incomparably more important” than a civilization. And this means each of us is incomparably more important and durable than anything we make.
The Importance of What We Make
However, what we make remains of immense importance because it actually reveals, in some measure, what we are. This is true of God (Romans 1:20) and true of us (Matthew 12:33). What we produce and our motives for producing it reveal what we believe and value.
That’s the message of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30): Faithful investment of what we’re given produces fruitfulness. It’s the message of the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46): What we do evidences what we are. Works evidence faith.
So the question for all of us makers becomes, what should we make of and with our lives? For each of us, the answer is different. But all of us must look to the Great Maker’s life (John 1:3; 14:6) to get our answers. For what he made with his life has great bearing on what we should make with ours. Our ultimate goals should be the same as his.
What the Great Maker Left Behind
What did God the Son pour himself into making when he became flesh and dwelt among us? What did Jesus build to last? Only two things: his word (teaching) and his church (transformed, born-again people). That’s all Jesus left in the world when he left the world. He determined no other artifacts were worth preserving.
But these two artifacts have impacted the world more than anything else in history. In fact, these two things are what world history is all about. For two millennia, Jesus’s word has sped (2 Thessalonians 3:1) and his church has spread throughout the world (Matthew 24:14). And when every human civilization and artifact, and the world as we now know it, has finally perished, these two things will remain. Jesus’s word is forever (Matthew 24:35) and his church is forever (Revelation 22:4–5).
What Jesus made is not more important than what he is. What he has made reveals what he is. Which makes what he has made of incalculable importance.
What Will You Leave Behind?
What implication does Jesus’s making have on our making? Essentially it means that we should make Jesus’s priorities our priorities. If Jesus devoted his earthly life to making his word known and his church grow, then the aim of our making should be knowing and spreading his word (Matthew 28:19) and serving the growth and health of his church (Ephesians 4:13).
Does this mean that all of us should be employed full-time by a Christian ministry? By no means! Rather, it means that all of us should see all of life as a form of full-time Christian ministry, no matter what our profession is. For the Christian, there is no abiding sacred-secular distinction. All things are God’s (Romans 11:36), and we do all things for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
God does set a few aside to devote themselves to the ministry of the word, the care of the church, and the equipping of the saints (Acts 6:4; 1 Peter 5:1–3; Ephesians 4:12). But the vast majority of us are sent by God into all spheres of life to spread his word and gather and serve his church. He gives us many different talents to invest; he gives us varied gifts to use (1 Peter 4:10). And they all are made holy by the word and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4–5).
But nothing that we make on earth is sure to last, except for its effect on advancing Jesus’s word and his church. In this sense, it’s true that “only what’s done for Christ will last.”
So what are you pouring your life into making? When it’s over, what will you leave behind that will really last? When you report to your master how you invested the talents he gave you, what will you show as a return?
What you are is of eternal importance. And what you make reveals what you are. So make the priorities of all that you make to serve the priorities of your Maker. Make your making eternally durable (1 Corinthians 3:12–13) by making it serve the advancement of the word and the church.