How can art glorify God and serve the church?

By Beth Hyduke

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
At some point in their lives, many Christians find themselves asking a similar question. How can art — or any seemingly non-spiritual talent — be used to serve God? Many believe that serving the Lord must necessarily be limited to pursuing a direct role in the clergy, ministry, missions etc. But the Bible does not command this of all of us, nor suggest that we must all forfeit our interests, talents, and passions in order to seek degrees in theology. Instead, there is a wide range of roles, occupations, professions and skills that you can legitimately, and with clear conscience, pursue as a Christian believer. As long as it is honest work you want to do, the Lord can use it to bring glory to Himself and point others to Christ. First Corinthians 10:31 is rather affirming this way as it makes allowances for those of us who are not pastors, ministers, deacons, elders, or formal missionaries going abroad: "...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Notice that it doesn't say "whatever you do so long as it is within the church"' or "whatever you do as long as you attain an advanced degree in divinity" It simply says "whatever you do," deliberately leaving that door open to numerous options that suit the unique person God made you to be. Colossians 3:23-24 gives the true reason behind the Christian's freedom in choosing an occupation. "Whatever you do, do whole-heartedly, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve..." In other words, a Christian is serving God whether that person is a garbage collector or a senator because God is served by any honest work done well. It is not your occupation that validates or invalidates your service; it is the attitude of your heart and willingness to serve God in whatever you do that makes any honest occupation acceptable. This general directive includes any artistic endeavor that is done well and for the ultimate purpose of glorifying God.

For some bizarre reason, people tend to devalue the arts as inferior to other arenas of work. But the arts have a unique ability to move, inspire, impassion, and uplift others in a way that few other occupations can. This is not so strange or unbelievable if we remember that God is the original Artist, the prime Master Craftsman (Genesis 1:1, Isaiah 45:18 & 64:8, Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 2:10, Revelation 4:11) who created His universe to be aesthetically beautiful and visually stunning, and filled it with a spectrum of vivid colors, incredible variety, and unique landscapes, habitats, ecosystems, creatures, and human beings. The very fact that human beings are drawn to create is a direct result of God's creating us in His own image (Genesis 1:27); in a small but potentially impactful way, we imitate and reflect the example of our Creator-God when we develop and hone artistic talent (instead of renouncing it like it was a vice) in order to make good, beautiful things. In this way, art, which was invented by God, has tremendous potential to glorify God.

We read about one specific instance of this happening in Exodus 35. We are told that God appointed and commissioned a wide variety of artists and craftsmen to adorn and decorate the tabernacle, the very place He had chosen as His dwelling place with His people Israel:
See the LORD has called by name [a man named] Bezalel...and has filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom and in understanding and all manner of workmanship, to design the artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship...He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work...the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker...and the weaver — those who do every work and those who design artistic works...and every gifted artisan in whom the LORD has put wisdom and understanding... (Exodus 35:30-36:1)
It is clear from passages like this that God not only affirms and appreciates the beauty of art, but finds it important enough that He desires to be served and glorified specifically through all kinds of expressive art forms.

Art, in all its forms, should be a celebration of God and everything He created and declared to be good (Genesis 1:31). The visual arts should be a visual fulfilment of Philippians 4:8: "...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

So you can you use your talents to glorify God? The Bible is clear that art can be a legitimate medium and a useful platform to serve God well and help people. From the Bible I would point you to Proverbs 31, which among the virtues of hard-working diligence, showing kindness to the poor, and honoring the Lord, we find that "the virtuous woman" is skilled in all kinds of arts and crafts. She is praised because she works hard making beautiful things that she sells to provide for her family and the poor, and her exemplary work ethic, generosity towards others, and personal relationship with God glorifies the Lord and magnifies Him to those around her. She is not berated for wasting her life in a meaningless occupation and skillset; she is commended for using her God-given talents to be productive and to glorify God through those talents, just as Bezalel and the other artists and craftsmen did in Exodus 35.

Francis Schaeffer once wrote, "The lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as [evangelical] tracts, but as things of beauty to the praise of God." Instead of pursuing "art for art's sake" as the secular world and philosophers have taught us for 200 years, Christians who have been blessed with artistic creativity and talent should intentionally use that talent to redeem the field of visual arts by pursuing art for God's sake.

Image Credit: SplitShire; Untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Ministry-Church

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Published 3-18-15