Missio on Bezalel and Oholiab: The Work of Performance and Creativity

A question that has puzzled me for quite awhile is the idea of art, music, and all forms of creativity or performance – how they could possibly fulfill the Lord’s design for humanity?

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It makes sense to me that creativity does indeed point to God because He is the ultimate example of being a creator. But how could one’s job and vocation being a performer possibly count as work? To me, it seems that performers have it easy, or at least that they love what they do, and isn’t the classification of work in human minds that it be difficult? But what classifies something as difficult? As you can tell, this discussion runs circles through my mind but I’ve begun to break down some of the ways being a performer or “creator” can also be valuable work, fulfilling our purpose of multiplication and dominion.

In Exodus 35:30- 36:7, Moses identifies men among His people who possess specific talents and abilities that aren’t what most would consider extremely useful or practical. He talks about men and women who are engravers, designers, and embroiderers, all occupations which seem nonessential to everyday life. I mean if you think about it… is it really necessary that there are people who know how to decorate or make objects looks pretty? Or furthermore that they can paint a beautiful mural, write a captivating story, or sing and play a pleasing song? Perhaps God truly values what others might consider expendable.

Especially in today’s industrial world, the push is for STEM-based education, curricula that mainly focus on science, technology, engineering, and math. The problem is that by focusing only on what are “practical” subjects in education, we stifle the natural human will to want and possibly even need to be creative and to cultivate beauty. As Moses describes, God seems to “fill” humans with the capacity to “devise artistic designs, work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting and in carving wood,” none of which fall under the category of STEM capabilities. Truly if education policy makers continue to push for the removal of artistic and aesthetic realms of learning, kids may never have the opportunity to discover many God-given abilities they may possess.

Another error in our view of vocation is failing to pursue what we are most inspired or motivated by rather than what is practical or secure. Don’t get me wrong, I completely believe that as humans we should strive to be responsible and make wise choices when it comes to taking care of our health and security. But I think so often our comfort becomes an idol when we lose sight of the promises of the Lord. In Exodus 35, Moses describes men who are in fact “inspired to teach,” rather than men who choose teaching as a fall back or safety net. Too often adults choose their profession because they have failed, fear failure, or simply have not felt inspired to do anything else.

And yet God has designed us to do more than what simply motivates us; we are called to seek those things which “stirs our hearts.” John Eldredge says in the book Wild at Heart, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I agree with this stirring quote…to a point.

Where I disagree is that I do believe it is important to consider the needs of the world. However, just because the world needs doctors, does not mean you should pursue medical school. Because who really wants a doctor who is motivated by guilt or obligation, rather than an authentic interest in the human anatomy and addressing people’s physical needs? And, in the end, the world needs artists, too.  So while I think we should still take the needs of the world into consideration when we pursue our vocation, we must then identify which of those needs we feel gripped or moved to help meet and how we can best use our skills and interests to meet them.

So while I still sometimes wonder whether musicians, artists, and actors are truly living out a God-given purpose, I cannot deny the existence of talent and ability that cannot be taught. I think the existence of specific talents in itself points to God’s design for humanity to be co-creators. And if we are to discover that God has gifted us with a rare ability to draw, to write, to sing, or to dance, then why would we not pursue using those abilities to bring God the glory he is due?

I suppose the question remains: should one’s creative talent be one’s profession? I think the answer possibly lies in the word: inspiration. After all, the artists and musicians and performers do work – quite, quite diligently, actually, and with much self sacrifice.  They just love what they do while they work at it.  With our creative abilities, we have been given the opportunity to inspire the heart of many and quite possibly paint a picture of Christ as we bear the image of God in our own original creations.

 

Where has God given you a creativity to use in your own vocation, whatever that vocation may be?

 

Madelyn Pierce teaches music in a Northeast Washington, DC charter school and is a member of the 2015-2016 Falls Church Fellows Program in Falls Church, VA.

 

Images: FreeImages.com/Eduardo Guillen, Rodrigo Gallindo

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