Have you ever looked at some of the most famous paintings in history and wonder about the brush that did the painting? How about when you tasted the best dessert you’ve ever eaten, have you wondered about the spoon or whisk used to mix the batter? When Willie Mays made “the catch” at the Polo Grounds in New York (I was a huge fan of his when I was a kid) did you wonder about the glove that he used, or when Michael Jordan hit arguably his most famous shot to knock the Cleveland Cavaliers from the playoffs in 1989, do you wonder about the ball that fell through the net? When you read a poem by Maya Angelou or a play by William Shakespeare, did you wonder about the pencil (or quill in Shakespeare’s case in all likelihood) that was used to write those incredible works?
Unless you’re … detailed, let’s just say … you probably have never once considered any of these things, and you’re not likely to start now. I can’t blame you. I rarely think about such things either. None of us do. That’s because the brush, the whisk, the glove, the ball, and the pencil are implements or tools. Left to themselves, they quite literally can do nothing. But, in the hands of a skilled artisan, in some cases in the examples above incomparably talented artisans, some of the most memorable and world-changing constructs can be accomplished. We don’t venerate the pencil we venerate the user of the pencil. And with good reason.
And yet, we tend to over-focus on the pencils in our human experience, including when we are the pencil. How? We find an example in Romans 1:19-20, 25 …
They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
Verse 25 says that “they” worshipped the created things, not the Creator of things. The “they” is us. We do it, and we do it all the time. I know I do.
Anytime I have achieved something or done something well, I can assure you I have taken credit for it. I’ve patted myself on the back. I’ve notched myself higher in the “I’m pretty awesome” club. My pride meter creeps ever higher. Don’t get me wrong, when we set out to do things that are noteworthy, and particularly when we take actions to the benefit of others, some degree of acknowledgement is warranted. But the proper acknowledgement, and the appropriate apportionment of attribution, is important. I’m just the pencil. There’s a pencil User who deserves all the credit.
That’s because left to myself, I can’t do anything. No matter what character trait of mine I credit, of my own volition it does not exist. My gifts, my talents, my experience, my education, and even my effort are only available to me because God provided them and allowed for them. There is nothing that I have and nothing that I do that He didn’t give me. I can regress as far back as I want and can never quite get to the point where something is of myself. No matter how far back I look, my skills, traits, and abilities are not there because of anything I’ve done. No more than the works of Shakespeare are there in any way because of anything the pencil did.
So whether it’s my accomplishments, or it’s the amazing drumming of Buddy Rich when he was alive, or the painting of Michelangelo, or the world-changing work of Martin Luther King, Jr., all were possible ONLY because they were pencils in the skillful hands of the ultimate Writer.
Please don’t misunderstand, though. This is NOT to diminish the invaluable contributions of the likes of the aforementioned people. Quite the opposite. Each of these folks (and those mentioned above) were unique, designed for a job that in many ways only they could accomplish. Think of it this way, they were perhaps pencils fit to use identifiably for writing a masterpiece, or for drawing a rich, vivid picture, or for measuring perfectly a cut of wood for the perfect structure, or for solving a complex mathematical formula previously thought unresolvable. They were perfectly and discretely positioned for the work and in that sense were valuable beyond measure.
But it’s in their use in the right hands by the right user that they realize their purpose. In that way does their merit and value become fully revealed. The pencils are incredibly important. But the user of the pencil is the one who brings meaning and purpose to the pencil.
You and I are pencils. It doesn’t mean that we have no value. It actually means we have infinite value. But it’s only in the hands of the One Who can fully elicit our worth, Who can create something with us that we could not create on our own. God has formed each of us as pencils, but pencils of different types, with different colors and textures, for different purposes, for different uses, and to apply at different times. Whether you are a pencil that will create a Shakespearian classic and I’m a pencil that measures the location of a cut on a two-by-four, we each have equal value. That’s because the Hands of the User of the pencil is the one who fulfills 100 percent of our potential. Because of Him, each of us pencils has immense and infinite worth, because He is the one who brings our worth to fruition.
Soli Deo gloria!