Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.” -Exodus 35: 30-34
Bezalel and Oholiab (I’ve heard various pronunciations of both names, but the most common are “beh-zah-LEL” and “oh-HOH-lee-ab”) are the first “artists” identified in scripture, and Bezalel is the first person identified in scripture to be filled with the Spirit of God. They were likely already highly skilled – trained and employed to build beautiful structures and objects for Egypt’s elite – when they were chosen by God and given his Spirit to receive his instructions, and to design and execute this “job.”
There’s a whole article that could be written about the relationship between the Spirit, artistic ability, and the calling of God. But what I want to focus on, as part of our month-long emphasis on the arts in education, is verse 34: “And he has given both [Bezalel and Oholiab] the ability to teach others.”
The ability to teach others is right up there with “knowledge and skill.” And I don’t think it’s stretching it too much too see this as a gentle command; if B&O were given the ability, we can assume God expected them to use that ability for His glory. And if we are to take B&O as examples, we can assume that God also wants us to teach others.
You’ve probably heard the saying “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” (and perhaps Woody Allen’s add-on, “Those who can’t teach, teach gym”). I never understood it. I come from a family of teachers, and I never viewed either of my parents or my sister or brother (who is an award-winning coach and “gym” teacher, btw) as failures at what they really intended to be.
But that seems to be a pervasive attitude toward teaching among artists.
Some artists “sell out” to teaching merely as a way to make money, hopefully only temporarily until they can get back to their “real work.” Others feel more called to teaching than to art-making, and excuse themselves as “not really an artist, just an art teacher.” I’ve known very few artists who’ve fully and enthusiastically embraced this dual call to creating and teaching.
Please let me challenge you: embrace it.
Teaching is a dignified and godly calling, and one that we, as believer-artists, can throw ourselves into even more enthusiastically than secular artists might – putting Christians into situations in which we can be role models and share God’s love with people who need it.
Don’t want (or need) to teach full-time? That’s fine. Volunteer a few hours a month. Don’t like kids? That’s fine. Adults at shelters and residences for the elderly would love to see you. You’d probably even find folks at your church who wouldn’t otherwise get to take a drawing class, or dance class, or piano lesson once a week or once a month, which would serve your community and might help your church build an arts ministry.
Let me jack this challenge up even more (here goes Luann onto her soapbox): I believe that this is the next major area of ministry to the Kingdom and the world into which God is calling the faith-and-arts movement.
Christians have raced to minister in geographic areas and to people groups that were struck by tragedy and injustice. The economic crisis is impacting everything, including the availability of arts programs in education and social services. It’s been on the decline for a long time, for a variety of reasons, but it is reaching a new low and will likely continue to decline. Underprivileged areas and people groups are particularly excluded from the proven benefits to quality of life and educational advancement that arts services and education can provide.
We’re needed, folks.
Let’s use what God has given us – in both our creative abilities and the ability to teach – to serve Him, His Kingdom, and His Creation.
We have a number of members who are doing this kind of work already who would be glad to talk with you about it. Just contact email@example.com for information. If you have experience in this work that you’d be willing to share with others, please join C&A so that we can get connected with you.
Note: Luann’s opinions are not the official stance of Church and Art Network, nor does she speak for all of its members.