30 Then Moses said to the Israelites: “Look, the Lord has chosen Bezalel, Uri’s son and Hur’s grandson from the tribe of Judah. 31 The Lord has filled him with the divine spirit that will give him skill, ability, and knowledge for every kind of work. 32 He will be able to create designs, do metalwork in gold, silver, and copper, 33 cut stones for setting, carve wood, do every kind of creative work, 34 and have the ability to teach others. Both he and Oholiab, Ahisamach’s son from the tribe of Dan, 35 have been given the skill to do every kind of work done by a gem cutter or a designer or a needleworker in blue, purple, and deep red yarns and in fine linen or a weaver or anyone else doing work or creating designs.
According to the Nicene Creed the Holy Spirit is “the Lord, the giver of life.” Wherever signs of genuine life and humanity are found, there the “divine spirit” is at work. The people of God, constituted as such by that same Spirit, ought to be the place above all where the world can see such life and humanity alive and well. Unfortunately, this is not always, or even often, the case.
In one area in particular the church in our country has squelched life more than promoting it. And that area is artistic endeavor. We seem to have a “Beauty Deficit Disorder.” Some of this may be a hangover from Reformation iconoclasm. Some of it may stem from our privileging rational and analytical thought over other ways of knowing and communicating. Others seem to think that beauty/art is secondary to theological and evangelistic efforts and, thus, less important and urgent than the former. Still others suspect that beauty or art in itself, without theological or evangelistic motivation is inherently secularizing and anti-God. All this contributes to our “Beauty Deficit Disorder.”
Our text from Exodus gives the lie to whole attitude. Bezalel and Oholiab are given God’s Spirit and commissioned to do “every kind of creative work” (v.33) in building and adorning the Tabernacle. This structure was to be very place where God met and fellowshipped with his people – who represent all humanity. This beauty-drenched structure is a parable of the world God desires and sends his Spirit to equip and evoke from his people. In the Tabernacle artistic endeavor of every kind brings glory and praise to the Creator. The Spirit as “the giver of life” beautifies it not as secondary or even optional extra but as ingredient to the very experience of life with this God.
The church, thus, has no brief for its “Beauty Deficit Disorder”! Within and without its fellowship we ought to be producers and promoters of all the beauty and art we can manage. Beauty bears its own testimony to its Creator and plays an essential role in making and keeping human life human. This is the work of God the Spirit and to slight or deny or limit its expression is an affront to him!
Let’s be done, then, with our “Beauty Deficit Disorder” and in obedience to and enjoyment of the new life given us through the Spirit drench our churches, neighborhoods, schools, offices, common areas, indeed the whole world with sheer beauty!