Do everything for the glory of God.
– 1 Corinthians 10:31
It’s probably the most defining question any artist can ask themselves. Your answer to it will be the wind that fills your sails, driving every creative pursuit and project, along with charting the course of your vision and purpose.
The question is: Why do I create?
It’s a good question to ask ourselves as artists, and we should be careful, honest, and thoughtful in how we answer it.
I’ve asked it to other creatives I’ve known over the years and have received a variety of responses. Some say they just enjoy it. Some say it’s a passion they feel they must express. Some express that they have to get the ideas out of their head or they will go crazy. Others simply claim it’s part of who they are.
All of these I have felt, and on some level, have also found myself in agreement with. However, lately something changed. Something started to creep into my mind when I thought on this question.
The more I considered the reason I create, the more my answer became shaped by my answer to a different question. A question of identity.
The question: Who am I?
Well, there are many answers to that question. I am Shawn. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father. I’m a designer, a church member, a lantern collector, a beard grower, and the list goes on. When I think about it, I’m a lot of things. However, there is one thing that I am that is before all the others. It is the ultimate title of my identity that makes every other title in my life not only possible, but even gives each of them their purpose and value.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. –1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Who am I? I am not my own. I do not belong to myself, and I wouldn’t want it any other way! I was bought with a price, and that price was the blood of Jesus Christ. I was a slave to sin, bound to death, and held captive by an evil enemy. I could not free myself from that condition, but someone else could. That someone was Christ! He came and paid my debt and set me free. Free to belong to Him. Who else would I want to belong to? Myself? That only brought death. I love belonging to Him where there is life and joy! (Ephesians 2:1-10)
So how does this reality influence my answer to the first question, why do I create? If I am not my own, and every source of joy in my life flows from this new relationship with God (John 15:11), and I was brought into this relationship by His grace, then I want everything I do to show the beauty of the one who made me alive! I was designed for God to be glorified in me, and I was also made to enjoy His beauty! So with that, God put a new desire in me, a 1 Corinthians 10:31 desire.
Do everything for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31
I’m pretty sure that “everything” includes drawing an image, creating a design, or any creative pursuit. So then the question… how do I do that? How do I create for God’s glory?
The answer came from an unexpected place. Exodus. Yep, a book about God freeing His people from captivity and teaching them how to use their redemption for His glory!
In Exodus I came across a passage of scripture that as an artist stopped me in my tracks. In Exodus 35, God’s word talks about people like me, and it’s beautiful.
Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded… – Exodus 35:10
This verse has become the focus of my creative efforts. But to really grasp the full weight of meaning, we need to look at verses 30-35
Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer. –Exodus 35:30-35
I cannot tell you the amount of stirring that takes place in my heart when I read these scriptures! God has gifted people, with skill, intelligence, knowledge, and craftsmanship, to make things that look good! Beautiful things! But why…?
What is the context of this scripture? What is going on here? The people of Israel are building the tabernacle, the tent that would be used to worship God: that God would come and fill with His glory! (Exodus 40:34) And guess what, He wanted it to look good. He wanted well crafted things, beautiful designs, purposeful work that meant something. It was not aimless or mindless or self-glorifying. It was skillful and intelligent. Having each part infused with meaning so that all of it points to Christ who is the ultimate display of God’s glory! (Hebrews 1:3)
I believe it is the desire of God for every person to use their skills and talents in a way that brings glory to Him, and to follow 1 Corinthians 10:31. So for me, there came a moment that I decided everything I create must be for His glory. It needs to speak of a truth from Scripture, tell of an experience of God’s truth in my life, and no matter what it is, leave no doubt that its creation is meant to glorify God.
So that is why I create, and I hope if you are an artist reading this that it stirs your affections toward Christ to a point that you will do the same. There is no higher calling for an artist! Draw people to Christ with your art; to that which can truly satisfy.