Yes, of course we need to have guidelines and we should keep #2 on the Thou Shalt Not list in mind. When we make art we need to ask the question, “Who does this glorify?” Me as the artist, our church, or God? How can artists and churches avoid making this mistake of glorifying themselves with art? I think first and foremost artists must acknowledge that their ability is a gift from God.
The composer Igor Stravinsky said,
“I take no pride in my artistic talents; they are God-given and I see absolutely no reason to become puffed up over something that one has received.”
God really does gift you artists and calls you to use your gifts. In fact, the first people known to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then gifted and commissioned to use their skills were artists, Bezalel and Oholiab.
We have a record of their calling and an incredible enviable list of their skills in Exodus 35:30 and following:
"Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and in fine linen, and weavers – all of them master craftsmen and designers.”
To you artists, I want you to know, you have been blessed and gifted by God and He is commissioning you to use your skills and abilities to his glory and for the beauty of the church. And to you church leaders its time for you to embrace artists and know they too have been called and find a way to use their gifts in worship and in the liturgy and life of the church.
We don’t need to be afraid and paralyzed by the pitfall of idolizing arts in worship, we need to be intelligent and intentional. We do this by acknowledging that artistic skill is God-given and we don’t get puffed up about something we have received. We also do this by resisting the temptation as artists to isolate ourselves. Your art world and your faith world must connect. We need to live and work in community where we can worship together and have accountability, discipleship and discernment about our art and how God is speaking through us. And finally, we can avoid the pitfall of idolatry by offering our art to God for his glory. Just like one of my sons would bring me his little crayon and macaroni masterpiece for me to stick on the fridge, we also need to bring our art to God and say, “I made this for you.”
When we do this, the purpose of art becomes the same as anything else, it’s for the benefit of others and the glory of God.
Phillip Graham Ryken put it another way,
“Making art is an expression of our love, love for God and love for our neighbor.”
And Jesus told us that there are no greater commands than these.