If we were to assign a profession to God, what would you say? In my case, I wouldn’t hesitate to respond straight away: God is an artist. In fact, it wouldn’t be necessary to peruse the Bible from one end to the other looking for the answer. In the very first sentence of Genesis, we read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Creativity, therefore, is to be taken as the activity that most characterizes God and here, among us humans, it is what best describes what to be an artist is all about: being creative by profession.
I know that many churches don’t feel comfortable in accepting art as a genuine way to glorify God, and we must admit, these churches have their reasons to do so. In many places, artistic expressions (especially in visual arts) have led people to idolatry, and therefore to the separation from God. Outside of that, the church still sees in contemporary art the relativistic effort to advocate the idea that there is no such thing as absolute truth. According to that thought, as Jesus Christ is himself the Truth (John 14: 6), art could never be a way to worship Him.
An argument that some people inadvertently use is that the Bible is specially against visual arts based on what the second book of Moses says:
You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:4)
In order to properly understand this passage, we have to read the preceding verse, which also brings a commandment from God:
You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3)
Therefore, as we read this verse, we understand that God is saying that we should not make sculptures to worship them as gods or idols.
For clarity sake, let’s read one more verse on the subject:
You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 26:1)
Having read those verses, we can now come to a conclusion about what the Bible thinks about visual arts: Scripture is not against the sculptures, but against the worship of them; in other words, Christianity is not against the use of art, but against its abuse. As we know, God created man in His image, according to His likeness (Genesis 1:26), and, therefore, He expects us to behave in a creative way for, as we saw, God is incredibly creative.
More than that, God called some to be professionally creative, that is, to be artists. Every time I say that, I always get questions as the following: what does it take to be an artist according to God’s will? How should an artist be in order to please God? Those are the type of questions I’d like to address in our chat today. I hope you enjoy it.
Before getting into the issue, I’d like to ask you to read the following biblical passage, which we’ll examine afterwards:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.
And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze,
in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.
And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you.
Let’s now highlight some important points we can extract from the verses we read.
- Some people are called by God to be artists
We saw that God chose two people, Bezalel and Aholiab, to execute some artistic activities. Yes, there are people who are called to be artists. They are called to help the body of Christ through their artworks in the visual arts, dance, theater, cinema, music, etc.
Due to the bad experiences churches have had with art, it is sometimes difficult for some Christian leaders to recognize God’s calling to the arts, specially in areas other than music. Reason being that music is an area that is easier to be put under control inside the Church. After all, only those songs previously approved be the pastor (or by the worship leader) will be sung in service, right?
God calls people to exercise their artistic role within and outside the church. In the context of the passage we are addressing now, we see that the Israelites were working in Egypt as masons and in other heavy jobs, which, naturally speaking, wouldn’t qualify these people for the finest artistic works. But even so, God chose two of them and did not abandon them; on the contrary, God equipped them for what they were called. if God calls, He empowers. If God calls you to do something, He’ll qualify you for the job.
- God qualifies those who are called to be artists
Those artists who are called by God are also empowered by Him (Exodus 31:6). We have many examples of people who actually touched other people’s hearts through their art, who were able to translate and communicate divine profound truths through their artworks. If you know you are called for it, do not worry: God will help you to develop the necessary skills to fulfill with excellence your calling.
Another very important aspect here is the following: God’s calling is not always for the ministry in the church. God can call you to be an artist outside the church and to touch other people’s hearts wherever you are. God may use your art to bring people to the Truth in Jesus Christ. If this is the case, act according to your calling and to what God has for you; find out what the artwork God wants you to do is and do it.
- God has specific artworks in mind for you to do
It’s true that when God calls us, He empowers us to several works (Exodus 31:3), but the calling is for specific works according to His will. The calling is to do what he has commanded us to do (Exodus 31:6).
God’s calling should direct the artist to specific artworks that God wants the artist to do for the honor of His name. This is a protection to guard the artist’s heart, which is often seduced by work proposals that seem good, but removes the artist from God’s bigger plan.
It is very common for artists, especially in the music field, to feel swayed by other values and begin to invest in jobs that are not exactly what God has for him. Some artists have the right start, but all of the sudden find themselves bringing the glory to themselves and not to God, and end up leaving God’s calling for their lives. Only artists who prioritize their relationship with God keep on track. Never place your relationship with the Spirit of God in second place in your career.
- God fills the artist with the Holy Spirit
God filled Bezalel with His Spirit in order to enable him to develop his artistic activity with excellence. This means that artists can be filled with the Holy Spirit and that they can develop their God-inspired task for the God’s glory. The activity of the artist filled with the Spirit of God is as important as any other activity in the body of Christ and we, Christians, should recognize it.
Finally, I would like to invite you to see art differently. I’d like to invite you to think of art not as an enemy of Christianity, but rather as an opportunity to show how such lofty concepts as truth and beauty can be put together in an artistic work. If we Christians don’t open our eyes to it, if we keep doing nothing to encourage people who honestly were called by God to be artists, we will be contributing for what contemporary society is doing in nowadays: subverting what art should be doing and promoting art as an expression of what is destructive and immoral. We cannot wait long or it’ll be too late, don’t you think so?