Growing up in church as long as I have, this verse has been well read and taught often. Despite this, I've always had a flawed understanding of the reference to workmanship. Perhaps its because of our modern manufacturing processes, but I've always seen the term workmanship just as a reference to creation. That we're His work, his handiwork, the product of His hands. A verse that indicates that God made us. That's worthy of celebrating, but it's not all that the verse intends to convey.
The word for masterpiece in the original Greek is ποίημα or poiēma. It's the word from which we derive poem. We are God's poetry. It's what leads translations like the New Living Translation to interpret this section as "For we are God's masterpiece." And that is something that goes far beyond our traditional understanding of workmanship.
It connects us back to the days of the artisan craftsman. When the builder, the carpenter was not someone who just built something functional, but someone who devoted their time and talent to create unique, one-of-a-kind creations and works of art. Where each piece represented the best of their ability.
It would seem that treating this verse as referring to works of art would require us to remember a few things.
1. In works of art, each component has a purpose - Each brushstroke, each chisel, each line, each dot, each color - everything has a purpose and it is part of the grand design of the artist. It's this detail that draws the appreciation. I think of the art of Jackson Pollock. Though it may look like a mess, each drip, every line, every stroke has been placed there with a purpose. It has been designed that way. It may not seem like it, but this is the exact piece that Pollock intended to create.
|One: Number 31, 1950|
2. Works of art are unique creations, not mass produced - Works of art are individual creations of their creator. The crowds want to see the original Mona Lisa, not a print of it, no matter how high the quality. They want to see the brush work, the original canvas. This is a great distinction between God's masterpiece/poem/work of art and God's handiwork. I think we today have an interpretation of handiwork being mass produced. God may have made us, but he made everyone and used a similar mold. When an artist creates in a similar motif, he creates variations, not copies. Like Monet's series, such as Houses of Parliament. The same subject is painted, but each one features different characteristics no matter how slight.
|Houses of Parliament, London|
|Houses of Parliament, Sunset|
Have you been trying to live as a high quality print of someone else's masterpiece instead of as your own unique variation?
3. Each work of art conveys a message - Art is supposed to move us. It is supposed to make us feel something. To learn something. It can speak to our highest euphoria. And can discuss our greatest tragedies. Like Guernica, Picasso's most powerful anti-war painting. The response to the Spanish Civil War destroyed the town of Guernica and Picasso's painting draws stark attention to it's horrors.
4. Works of art are meant to be displayed - We recognize that art is meant to be seen. Experienced. Heard. Art is sensory. It's not meant to be hidden. It's why we put it on display in a gallery. On a stage. In a concert hall.
Like our live's, meant to be on display. To display God's power. His holiness. His grace. His love. His mercy. Our marriages are meant to be a picture of Christ and the Church. We as members of the Church are to be a picture of how love is supposed to work.
When thought of that way, it's a little easier to see how we are supposed to be God's work of art. And that has the potential to be radically transforming.
I mean, think about it - how would your life change if you thought of yourself as God's masterpiece? Is that something that could even enter your train of thought? That God designed you to be a work of art displayed proudly for all to see?
I firmly believe, if we all recognized this, and believed it, we would live dramatically different lives. We would live the unique life that He has designed us to have. We would proclaim the testimony and purpose that He has given us to all the world.
And we would credit our creator with the beauty that He has given us.
One work of art to another.