Have you ever felt empathy for an inanimate object?  I don’t make a habit of doing so, but I recently came across the art installation, “Can’t Help Myself” by Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu and suddenly my heart is breaking!  Why is that?

Can’t Help Myself 2016, Kaka industrial robot, stainless steel and rubber, cellulose ether in colored water, lighting grid with visual-recognition sensors, acrylic wall with aluminum frame. Courtesy: the artist and GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana. Photo: Ela Bialkowska

If you click this link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS4Bpr2BgnE), you will get a glimpse of their art.  The hefty machine, a Kuka industrial robot to be exact, sits behind its transparent acrylic walls with its sole purpose being to contain a deep-red liquid to within its reach.  Once the fluid begins to stretch too far in any direction, its sensors call it to draw the stray liquid back to its base and on and on it goes, 24/7, until the machine will eventually run down. 

This was me!  At my last job, and most jobs that I’ve worked, I had no sense of the ministry of vocation.  I didn’t work for anything beyond myself and my immediate concerns.  Therefore, I have empathy for this poor Kuka industrial robot!  We sit in our cubicles, like its acrylic walls, slaving over a singular task that may only have a benefit for the next 24 hours until the task begins all over again.  We may slowly feel our resources exhausted while we wear ourselves down, internally screaming like the gears of this tired machine. 

Some of us see ourselves in the experience of this art exhibit.  But what hope do we have to escape the monotony?  How do we release ourselves from the crushing fate of this machine and see beautiful redemption in our work lives that take up such a large percentage of our time on this earth?

Last Monday, we discussed the opportunity we have to thrive, despite the thistles and thorns of working for a living, by working (and even simply living) beyond ourselves and our day.  1 Corinthians 10:31 says that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Why?  Because we look forward to our inheritance and eternal rewards when we take seriously the call, “whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24 HCSB).  We know not to “work for the food that perishes, but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (John 6:27 NASB).

In addition, I love that this beautiful truth is a gift of God not just for ourselves to selfishly grasp onto, but for others as well.  Our thriving in this way teaches us that “the one who steals must no longer steal; but rather he must labor, producing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with the one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28 NASB).

Do you know that your mundane tasks likely place you into the lives of others so that you might minister to them?  It absolutely is hard work, but that does not mean we can ignore our purpose, as I struggled with so often.  When we plant seeds of the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Galatians 5:22-23) into our environment, we testify, not to morality or rules or the Law in relation to whatever social issue we come upon, but we testify to the only saving truth – Jesus Christ’s blood spilt for each of us – sinners – who have found redemption in His goodness to us (Psalm 40:3). 

That is a stunning truth that the “Can’t Help Myself” Kuka industrial robot will never have access to!  But our coworkers do, so let us commit to overwhelming the world with the love of God, telling the story of Jesus in whatever work we have available to us!  Or as David Russell Mosley put it more artistically and symbolically, “we must live now. We must create, we must tell the story of Christ through whatever medium is present to us.”

Love you all,

Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff

The Kuka Industrial Robot in the Mirror…

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