Following a recent sermon featuring exhortations to embrace the spiritual discipline of simplicity a friend at Hope Chapel raised an interesting question, which I will put in my own words, “If we are supposed to live so frugally, saving all we can, what will become of artists trying to sell their works?”
Another way to pose the question is ask, “Can a committed Christian buy works of art?” Shouldn’t all the money I save from my exercise of simplicity be given to support God’s work in the earth?
Following the logic of ‘Earn all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can’ to absurdity will yield this result. What John Wesley was laying out in his sermo, was a way to think about the resources and the strength God gives to each one of us…that we should develop a Spirit-inspired vision for to use of our wealth.
I believe one of the most important aspects of moving away from a rote obedience to the tithe as a form of Christian discipleship is that God wants us to partner with Him (and vice-versa) in ever-deepening relationship. He wants us to ask him what to do with our lives and our resources…constantly, consistently. This will keep us praying and listening.
So my first reply to this seeming conundrum is to challenge people with the resources for purchasing art or expensive cars or any display of wealth is to pray. Go to Jesus, say, “All I am, all I have is yours. What do you want me to do with it?” He will guide you.
The second bit of advice I give to people with wealth who ask me what they should do in giving stuff away is this: follow your heart. I believe when we walk in harmony with God He gives us understanding into our own hearts. I also believe he is pleased to put desires into our hearts, to break our hearts with the things that break His. When we observe this work in our lives, then we are beginning to receive direction from His Spirit. In taking time to learn what breaks our own heart…and also breaks His, then we can begin to spend our resources in ways that relieve that burden and please God.
We can also understand those things that thrill God’s heart and begin to support initiatives that honor God and bring Him glory. Artists and their work reflect the creative nature of God and reveal something of His character in the excellence and beauty of their work. Their works should be purchased for that reason alone.
The math is simple here. In order to create more beauty an artist must be supported either through the sale of her art or in outright gifts of support.
There are many other reasons for purchasing art or even expensive cars. This blog is not designed for such in-depth discussion. But suffice it to say that the spiritual discipline of simplicity should not be wielded as a club against the God-honoring work of supporting artists by purchasing their work. Each believer should consider it his highest duty to ask God how He wants to use the resources placed at our disposal…and then simply obey. God will direct.
We can be both frugal and patrons of the arts. These things are not incompatible.