I have visited several kinds of church buildings in my brief lifetime. I have been in little buildings that leaned, and I have been in large impressive superstructures. One gave you a sense of fellowship we are to have in Christ. The other gave you a sense that you were approaching the holiness of God. Does God care about good workmanship in service to him? As I read through God’s instructions for worship, I am struck by two seemingly contradictory statements concerning this from Exod 20:24 and 31:4.
“You shall make an altar of earth for Me, . . . If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it (Ex 20:24-25).”
To profane something means to treat it as common. Why does cutting nice square stones profane an altar to him? Is God against artistic things? No. According to what he instructs later concerning the tabernacles, he says,
"See, I have called by name Bezalel, . . . I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship (Exod 31:2-5).”
God is not anti-art and craftsmanship. There is nothing inherently evil (or good) about it. The altar at the sanctuary was to be overlaid with bronze (Exod 27)! Artistic design only becomes evil when man begins to worship them rather than God. Good craftsmanship and artwork can be put to use in God’s service when it is okay with God, and in this case it was. Anyone visiting the sanctuary would have gotten a sense of God’s holiness even as they approached.
But that was God’s house. If you built an altar to God in your village, it was to be a mound of dirt or a pile or rocks. How would that have made you feel when the pagan religions built theirs out of beautifully cut stones? -- "Look at what those pagans offer to their gods! Doesn’t God deserve so much more than a pile of rocks? I almost feel embarrassed by this pile of rocks. It doesn’t even look like an altar. Doesn’t God deserve better?"
Yes, God deserves more than a pile of rocks. That is why Paul writes, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…(1 Cor 6:19).” and “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Rom 12:1).” The Bottom line is that God is not concerned with what you can build or do or perform with your hands, as if he needed those things. He doesn’t want your things. What he wants is you, all of you. When you offer your all to God, Paul calls it our “spiritual service of worship.”
You see, you are “God’s building (1 Cor 3:9).” Only the best should be used to build God’s character in your lives. So when someone approaches you, God’s temple, they can see something of the beauty of God’s holiness in your lives. They can see the “image of God” in you. That is true artistry and craftsmanship.