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Being a Christian Artist: Self-indulgence or a Calling?

Relief sculpture of a seated woman with an alabaster jar.
The Alabaster Offering, Polymer Clay, Sara Joseph, SOLD

Is being a Christian visual artist a frivolous endeavor in a troubled world? Are we selfishly dabbling in the temporal when we ought to be more concerned about the eternal?

Is creating art self-indulgent or is it a calling? This heart cry is universal.



Self-indulgence is defined as “excessive or unrestrained gratification of one’s own desires.” This definition gives an interesting clue to our ambivalent emotions about art making.

We universally agree that creating art is immensely gratifying. Which artist has not felt a deep sense of satisfaction when painting, sculpting or engaging in any creative activity? It makes us happy.

So could becoming excessively happy be a problem? I doubt it. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy, so it's hardly likely that Jesus would frown on our happy pursuit of art!

But how about the “excessive or unrestrained gratification of our own desires”? That is a different issue altogether.



If you've not surrendered your will to Him, that could certainly be a problem. When I made Jesus the Lord of my life, He became the Lord of my loves as well.

If you haven’t yet deliberately made that decision, now is as good a time as any to do so.

Over time His desires will become your desires. I seek to please Him first and you will too.

Three female figures in relief expressing repentance, surrender and liberty in Christ.
Zoe, Polymer Clay & Handmade Paper, Sara Joseph, SOLD

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Luke 9:24

The Greek word used in the verse above for “lose” actually means “destroy!”

Turning our lives over to Him is to receive it back renewed, refreshed and stunningly beautiful! Losing our lives is far from a sad or diminishing proposition. It’s the opposite.

Instead of experiencing loss, Jesus enriches our yielded lives in ways that are indescribable. However, its surprising rewards are not experienced if our surrender is half-hearted or partial.

In this new and different life, the making of art is a sacred calling as opposed to self-indulgence. It is entered into sincerely and with every resource available, the common and the precious.



I'm reminded of the woman with the alabaster flask of costly perfume (Mat 26, Mar 14 and Luke 14) She lavished on Jesus what was precious to her.

Detail of a Polymer Clay sculpture showing a seated woman with a alabaster jar
The Alabaster Offering, Detail, Sara Joseph,SOLD

Her genuine response to His love and forgiveness, found expression in an exquisitely beautiful action; she broke her flask of perfume and poured it over Him in worship.

Did she spend her savings on the expensive perfume in the hope of using it on her wedding day? What plans had she for it before she met Jesus? We can only guess.

It's curious that someone in her profession owned such a costly fragrance. Perhaps, despite her disappointments, she still dreamed of someday smelling sweet to someone who found her special.

Were her secret hopes contained in that jar of perfume, that was broken and poured out in reverent worship?

What is most poignant in this account is Jesus’ response to her offering.

'For she has done a good work for Me.'  Matthew 26:10

He commended the beauty of her offering! That is what the Greek word "kalos" means. It means "beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable and admirable!"

As artists who study beauty, yearn for it, train in it and strive to create it, this is instructive!



It should be noted that this beautiful offering attracted scorn, contempt and indignation from everyone else watching.

The total surrender to Jesus of our creativity, and our hopes and aspirations for it, will most likely provoke the same response in a world that sees other, more practical, reasons for its use.

Join me in disregarding their opinions as she did, keeping our eyes only on Jesus and seeking His approval. He made certain that her offering was not in vain; she is still being held up as an example over two thousand years later!



  • What plans did you have for your art before Jesus called you to Himself?

  • Will you now turn those over to Him?

  • Will you lavish that which is dearest to you—your resources, time, energy and those secret places of your vulnerability to Jesus?

  • Responding to His call leaves self-indulgence behind in the dust.

  • It should cost you your all, if it is to be a fragrant offering.

  • Only then is it a “beautiful work” to Him. Only then will you truly discover your calling.

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