Dictionary.com defines beauty as “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).” Yesterday, I met a family at the church building that had never been there before. “It’s a beautiful place” they said. It’s not the first time I have heard that space described that way. When we built it, all those years ago, we creating a space of beauty was just one way to show our honor for our God, and to demonstrate our reverence. Some criticize the expenditure of funds on building, preferring to be focused on functional space. Beauty often loses out to efficiency, sacrificed to our need to do more with less.
I believe that we are poorer for our failure to appreciate the value of beauty! We have a God-given need for beautiful things. When God created the world, He didn’t aim for efficient! He lavished color and variety on this tiny orb. A mountain meadow is splashed with an array of vivid colors, delighting our eyes. He could have made a dozen kinds of butterflies, but He went over the top and gave us millions! He loves beauty! Let’s not settle for cheap imitations. Whatever we do, let’s pursue beauty for the glory of God.
The Gospel of Mark records a moment that offended some of Jesus’ disciples. But, Jesus commended Mary for her lavish expression. “Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. “That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.” They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me.” (Mark 14:3-6, The Message)
The prophet Malachi heard the voice of the Spirit making a complaint against God’s people. They settled for cheap in their acts of worship and offended the Lord! Take a look. “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’ “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. “Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ “You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect. When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (Malachi 1:6-9, NLT)
Disciple, do you make life beautiful?
Are you cultivating beauty in your character, in your work, in your worship?
When we work at beauty, not from vanity, but as a way of pursuing excellence, we honor our God of wonder. Whatever God has entrusted to us, let us be people who make it beautiful for Him. Sin is ugly. It robs beauty from those who continue in it. It turns a palace into a ruin, a work of art into cheap exploitation, a person of infinite value into a drone only valued for his production. We are incapable of truest worship if we are unwilling to take the time to create beauty. Be like your Creator. Do what you do with a desire to make life beautiful, to ennoble others, to glorify God.
“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17-18, NKJV)
He gave me beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise
For the spirit of heaviness,
That we might be trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord,
That He might be glorified.
Beauty For Ashes- Manzano, Robert © 1976, 1979, 1983 Maranatha! Music (Admin. by The Copyright Company) CCLI License No. 810055