Masterpieces are not Mass-Produced

Published November 12, 2019

From an early age, my young soul rooted for the underdog.

On the playground, my eyes were drawn to the rejected kid who was never picked to play dodgeball. I would sit at the table in the cafeteria with the one who wore a bologna sandwich bullseye on his back. At the time, it bothered me that I cared so much.

I often wished I could be like the other kids who didn’t care about the outcasts.

Fast forward to business school. I was interning in the marketing department of a global manufacturer. I found myself again, rooting for the underdog. While the internal mantra was, survival of the fittest, I gravitated toward the seemingly least of the fittest, learning of co-workers’ struggles, fears and pains. I often felt my heart was in the wrong place.

Just like in grade school, I wished I could just focus on making money and not being drawn to the pain of people.

Even as a pastor of 30 years, I felt out of step. While many were focused on church growth strategies, the latest trends and styles, my discontent about how the church was serving the poor kept me unsettled. I was even told that I was out of balance.

I couldn’t let go of the conviction to serve the outcasts, those in pain and the poor.

It has taken me many years of experience, and therapy, to realize it’s okay to be different. In fact, as DeVon Franklin says, our differences actually are clues to our destiny.

Masterpieces are unique. One of a kind. Masterpieces are not massed produced.

The fact that I rooted for the underdog was a beautiful clue to the unique calling that God had on my life. It was not something of which to be ashamed. It was something to celebrate.

I have come to realize 3 things that allow me to celebrate the differences we all bring to the world.


1. You Are a Masterpiece

The apostle Paul says that we are masterpieces created to do good works.

Masterpieces are unique. One of a kind. Masterpieces are not massed produced.

While you may seek to fit in and be like other people, that is not how God has designed you. He has given you a gift and a calling that is specific to you. People need your unique voice, your unique passions, your unique experiences, your unique view of our world.

As  masterpieces, if we are honest with ourselves, we often feel different in a world that is trying to force us to be the same.

Claude Monet, the founder of French Impressionist painting, while alive, was mocked and rejected by the artistic elite. While the other artists in Paris were copying from the old masters, Monet would instead sit by a window and paint what he saw. His different approach led to mockery, but it also led to a new era of impressionist painting.

Oprah Winfrey was fired as a reporter because she was told she could not separate her emotions from the news story. She was told that good reporters are not emotional. Oprah chose to be unique, thus becoming one of the most successful talk show hosts, connecting real stories with real emotions.

Walt Disney was constantly turned down by investors because they said his ideas were too far-fetched and not practical. Walt would say that he resented the limits people would put on his imagination.

Say it out loud…I am a masterpiece!

The realization that I was God’s masterpiece led me to a newfound reality and freedom of…


2. No More Comparing

Mark Twain once said, “Comparison is the death of joy.”

When we are busy comparing, we have no time to offer our masterpiece to the world.

4 ways we compare and conform:

  • Appearance. How do we look?
  • Success. What have we accomplished?
  • Popularity. How well are we liked?
  • Possessions. What do we own?

The advertising industry uses comparison as a ploy to make us feel “less than” others. As a result, our own creativity can become paralyzed. We become insecure to show our masterpieces to the world.

You must believe, the world needs your masterpiece and it won’t be the same without it.

Say it out loud…No More Comparing!

The realization that I was God’s masterpiece and choosing to no longer compare, has led me to this practice…


3. I Daily Empty My Cup of Conformity

There is an ancient story of a weary man who went to a monastery for a week-long retreat, where he was seeking new strength. The monk, who was going to help him, began to pour the man a cup of tea. He continued to pour until the cup was overflowing. He kept pouring, the tea splashing over the rim’s edge onto the table, onto the floor.

When the weary man could no longer restrain himself, he yelled, “It is over-full! No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” the monk replied sharply, “you are so full of comparing, so full of self-judgment, self-shame, conformity, it will be hard for you to find new strength unless you first empty your cup.”

Say it out loud…No More Comparing!

Like that man, I, too, am often over-full.

Over-full of conformity, over-full of self-doubt, over-full of what others think and I have no space left to imagine, to grow, to discover, to be different, to offer my masterpiece, to experience joy.

Every morning, I practice emptying my cup of conforming my life to others. I empty the cup of comparison, of jealousies, of self-deprecation, so that my cup can be filled with the reality that I am a masterpiece.

Masterpieces are not mass produced.

My difference is my destiny.

I challenge you to say every day: “I am a Masterpiece!”
I challenge you to say every day, “No More Comparing!”
I challenge you to choose every day to “Empty Your Cup of Conformity!”

Because at the end of the day, the world desperately needs your difference.

About the Author
Ken Burkey

Ken Burkey

Executive Director


Ken Burkey is the executive director of Live58 fosters collaborative partnerships with local churches to develop focused strategies to better position themselves to serve the poor effectively. Prior to his role at Live58, Ken was the senior pastor at Green Valley Community Church in Placerville, California, for 23 years. He is the author of the book, The Power of an Orange Chair: Anecdotes, Stories and Celebrations of an Isaiah 58 Church.

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