Acton Institute Powerblog

What an oxygen mask teaches us about the power of creative service

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The oxygen masks dropped as the plane began to drop in altitude and lose cabin pressure. As he and his friends applied the masks, Reid Kapple began to wonder if the end was near.

Thankfully, the plane stabilized and landed safely, but for Kapple, a pastor in Kansas City, the experience stuck with him. A few months later, during a sermon series at his church on faith and work, Kapple was reminded of the mask and how great a contribution a small product can make to the common good.

“The Lord was doing something in my heart and mind by granting me this kind of imagination for the way in which the work of literally millions of people serves to bless me and make my life better,” Kapple says. “I was immediately reminded of the oxygen mask.”

Kapple began to see the bigger picture of work and creative service in the context of widespread economic exchange. In a new video from Made to Flourish, he tells his story.

Kapple wrote a letter to the workers who manufactured the mask, and later visited the factory, sharing his perspective, thanking them, and encouraging them in the work of their hands. “I believe that God cares deeply about all work that is done well and promotes human flourishing,” Kapple wrote in his letter to the company. “Thank you for your work, and please, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing, and do it well for the common good of all.”

As Evan Koons discovers in For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, “The fruit of our labor is fellowship. It’s community. It’s relationship.” Whatever task we set our hands to, we do not work unto ourselves. We work to serve others, and in serving others, we glorify God and sow seeds of redemption across civilization. As Stephen Grabill says in the series:

This is the oikonomia of economics…All our work, every product, is a result of a great and mysterious collaboration. Every product that you see here is the result of an enormous, organic collaboration of individuals…It’s a picture of abundance and harmony, and if you try to control the process, it’s like we’re trying to control how people offer their gifts to other people. And what we really need to do is to allow people to offer their gifts to one another in free and open exchange, so that others can flourish.

As Kapple demonstrates, when we see this bigger picture, we’re not only empowered to further amplify our own service and creative contributions. We’re also empowered to encourage and build up those around us, many of whom are struggling to see the meaning and purpose that’s already there.

11080001693_d0864e3fab_k“How significant it is for us to pause, to thank people specifically for their work,” Kapple concludes, “…to give them a more robust imagination for the fact that God is at work in our world through our work, and that God cares about work because our work is a means by which we love and serve our neighbors for the good of all people and the glory of his name.”

Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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