Creativity as a Spiritual Gift? Maybe?

I have been to a variety of churches in my brief lifetime. With the exception of the Catholic church, most Protestant churches I attended were fairly similar in terms of scope and practice and preaching methodology. In fact, it might be difficult to tell them apart without a really careful look at underlining theology informing the pulpit. From the pew part though, they all look a bit the same. Perhaps the most striking difference is between Pentecostals, Baptists, and everyone else. But what is really interesting is in all that “churching” I don’t think I really ever remember anyone talk about spiritual gifts.[1] I don’t think they are, well, uhum, unimportant.

In the Bible, one of the main passages on the spirituals[2] is 1 Corinthians 12. A variety of “gifts” are listed as part of Paul’s explanation to the church at Corinth. Alas, creativity is not listed. In fact, when it comes to the New Testament, there really is no indication that creativity is a spiritual gift. Of course, I’m kind of leery in believing that the New Testament lists every gift God could or ever will give. Yet still, things like artistic gifts are quietly absent from the text.

I believe God can anoint someone to empower them to do something. For me, that is the basic principle of a spiritual gift and a ministry of service. In principle, God seems to do this through out scripture to some people in the Old Testament and to every believer in the New Testament. However is there any room for an anointing to do art? Of course, you have to believe God actually anoints people in modern times and a good chunk of Christianity is cessationist or dispensationalist - two theologies that believe spiritual gifts expired at the end of what is called the apostolic age. Then there are those who do not believe in the miraculous at all, which is a whole different matter. There are a few groups within the modern church that cling to theology that gifts still abound and I tend toward this camp of believers.

I know my ability to create changed dramatically after I prayed for help from God to do something creative and I prayed for it as if it could be a gift from God. After all, many people believe that God even gives us our natural talent and abilities. And hey, He gives good gifts, right? While I don’t need to proof text the Bible to make a case, which I don’t want to do anyway, I did find something rather interesting in the Bible about God bestowing creative ability on someone via His Spirit. There does appear to be such an “anointing” after all. There is hope!

Wandering through Exodus

In examining Exodus 31 we see the story about God giving Bezalel His Spirit to build things for the Tabernacle. The Holy Spirit gifted this man with wisdom, understanding, knowledge and skill to do a variety of crafts (Exodus 31: 2-3, NLT).  Who says men don't do crafts, eh?  The point is, this man was to be involved in constructing the congregation tent and furnishings (e.g. the Tabernacle) (see Exodus 31:5) and He was fully equipped by the Spirit to do so. The Lord then appointed another man named Oholiab to assist Bezalel (see Exodus 31:6).  Now, what is exceptionally cool is the Lord then gifted all of the artisans with the skills that were needed to make everything that needed to be built according to God's instructions (see Exodus 31: 6-7).  I have found this to be particularly important on a number of levels.  First, God had a plan and within that plan God also had a specific blueprint for this particular request.  God shared both the plans and blueprint with Moses and God made sure the people were equipped to complete the task. It seemed like everyone had something to do, even the people who donated to make it all happen. It was quite the community thing if you ask me. So beautiful.

That is so God. Remember Adam and Eve? Yeah, He equipped them too. He gave them authority and then gave them the task. In fact, I think God more or less does this through out the Old and New Testament. He asks, He equips, we receive, we do with His authority, His name, and by His power - hopefully.

In the Exodus story, we see clearly God gifted people with what they needed to fulfill the plan and the blueprint right down to the smallest little jot and tittle.  God chose the lead guy and his assistant. And at least in Bezalel's case, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord (see Exodus 31:3).

Now, we know God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow  (Hebrews 13:8) so this process is not outdated or confined to the Old Testament. It is actually how Jesus operated and is consistent with God's character and nature from Genesis forward.  He did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19).  We also know He didn't do anything on His own initiative (John 8:28). Jesus demonstrated a lifestyle 100% devoted to the worship of the Father and a life fully submitted to the point He was like a mirror. He reported what the Father did, He did as well (John 5:19).  He did this with the Holy Spirit too.  In fact, to see Jesus was to see the Father (John 14:9)

We are all supposed to live like Jesus (1 John 2:5-6).  Jesus even talks about this principle briefly 3 verses down from John 14:9 at John 14:12 (AMP):

"I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father."[3]

You know, I think it is sad we have come to believe these things have ended. Jesus doesn’t seem to indicate this was to die out at the end of the apostolic age, but I guess if you interpret Christ’s intention as a brief one there isn’t much that can be done.[4]

For me, I prefer to see this through a hopeful lens. I know I paint and draw, and color with help. I have no formal training - the knowledge and wisdom to create is simply there and came after I prayed. I personally believe God desires intimacy and fellowship and instructs even in something like art. I was happy to see that God, a creative being, shared His creative abilities with some people to perform a need amongst a fledgeling nation for His glory. In a basic way, this appears to be an anointing for a ministry of craftsmanship and creativity. It gives me hope that I too, can partner with God in all that I do-creatively. Food for thought, right!?


Notations & Citations

[1] I learned about spiritual gifts in a book. The book actually didn’t tackle anything supernatural like prophecy, or tongues, or words of knowledge and wisdom. It definitely went no where near miraculous healing and outright signs and wonders. If you are looking for a place to start, it wasn’t a bad place. It does appear they have later editions to the one I cite below. I will try and do a resource review.

Fortune, D., & Fortune, K. (1987). Discover your God given gifts: Biblical handbook to help you discover ... ; why you think and act the way you do, how gifts affect your relationships, what career or ministry suits you best, how using your gifts will bring you joy. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books. Get the book from Amazon here.

[2] Believe it or not, where your English text reports the word “gifts” in 1 Corinthians 12 it should be italicized because it is added.

[3] I have often wondered what the greater things were. The Amplified version interprets the greater works as in the extent and outreach which would be beyond what Jesus did. But what is most eye catching is He did not say “my apostles.” He said, “anyone who believes.”

[4] I’ve read some interpretations of certain passages as indications that the spiritual gifts distributed to believers would end after the apostles. I personally do not see this and based on the overall story and intention of God in the Bible and His redemptive purpose to restore Eden, it makes no sense to believe that the spirit poured out and indwelling believers would leave people in a place of doing things by their own power. It actually seems to rally against the prophecy in Ezekiel and Jeremiah about torah being on our hearts and it seems to indicate a lesser promise of continuity and being in God’s presence - which alone is a major theme through the written Word. Prophecy would end because we are face to face with God. We are not quite there yet in that respect. We are still in the “transformation” process of here but not all the way here yet process.

Photo of front of church by Zayin Hope copyrighted 2018.