If I was to ask you to guess the first spiritual gift mentioned in the bible, what do you think it is? Preaching? Prayer? Miracles? Leadership? No, non, nein and nej. It’s creativity.
You might be surprised to learn that the first person we encounter in the bible who is ‘filled with the Spirit of God’ is an artist, a craftsman: Bezalel (pronounced ‘bed-za-lay-el’). We meet him in Exodus chapter 31, and it is God himself who declares that Bezalel is filled with the Spirit (v3). In fact, just in case we found it too surprising – and perhaps, like us, many of Bezalel’s fellow Israelites did – it’s repeated by Moses to the people in Exodus 35.
The church has always had an ambiguous relationship with the creative arts. We might marvel at our glorious mediaeval church buildings, but too often the arts have either been hijacked for the glory of proud humanity (in the name of God, which is far worse) or treated as idolatrous and ignored altogether. The church where my father was a minister in the 1980s was one of those where all the heads and hands had been hacked off the mediaeval statues by Thomas Cromwell’s thugs.
As always, the two extremes – hubris and hatred – fall far short of God’s intention. As we saw in Genesis 1, God loves creating, it’s in his nature. No surprise then that his intention for humans – who bear his image – is just the same. We are made to create! And God loves that side of our nature. Whenever we create in God’s name, we are filled with the Spirit, and witness to God’s glory, just as good old Bezalel thousands of years ago.
And even if you’re not a natural artist, we all get to create – when we cook, when we clear up, when we mend clothes, or tend our gardens, or try our hand at painting or crochet or pottery, or perfect the cross court backhand or do keepy-uppies, or just doodle when we’re bored in meetings. We’re always creating. And God loves that about you. Even if you’re not sure you love that about yourself.
In this unusual season, many of us are trying new ways of creating, or investing more in the ways we already know. Keep doing that! It’s who we are. And, even more, it’s part of what it means to be ‘filled with the Spirit of God.’
What are you creating today? Take a moment to stop and just feel God’s pleasure. He loves it!