For Glory and for Beauty

When it comes to beautiful things, like poetry or paintings or sunsets, to argue about usefulness is to argue on the wrong grounds entirely.

Not everything needs to be useful. This flies in the face of our decidedly utilitarian society. The world around us generally says, “If something doesn’t serve some ulterior purpose, then it’s not worth having. If a skill can’t be turned into money, then it’s not worth learning.” Our society would look at our students memorizing poetry and say, “What’s the point? How do you turn that into dollars?” To which the well-cultured might answer, “Memorizing poetry helps children learn language better and expands their vocabularies.” The one group sees no use. The other does see a use. Either way, the argument is still about whether memorizing poetry is “useful” or not. When it comes to beautiful things, like poetry or paintings or sunsets, to argue about usefulness is to argue on the wrong grounds entirely.

Beauty isn’t useful. Beauty is delightful. God didn’t need to create colorful flowers; he could have created them all gray. But he wanted to delight us. God didn’t need to create the stars. But they’re beautiful and make us wonder. It’s unnatural for man to view the created world as a means to an end. Who in his right mind looks at a flock of birds taking to flight, whirling and wheeling in graceful synchrony, and thinks, “Yes, but how can I use this?”

God has done many things for us that are useful, that have served some further purpose. Perhaps the chief example is that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our trespasses and rose from the dead for our justification. Jesus did not die simply for the sake of dying. But there are times when God does something without “in order to” or “so that.” For example, when the Lord gives Moses instructions about the vestments for the priests in the Old Testament, he says, “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2), and again, “For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty” (Ex. 28:40). “For glory and for beauty.” That’s not useful. That doesn’t serve some ulterior motive. It’s simply delightful.

Mount Hope Lutheran School recently received a donation for purchasing prints of beautiful art to adorn the school halls. These artworks will not be for the purpose of teaching art history. They will not hang on the walls in order to add a splash of color here and there or to cover up nail holes in the drywall. They will simply delight as ends in themselves. Here are the artworks we hope to get (click here). If you would like to contribute toward this wonderfully useless acquisition, speak with Mrs. Harris or me.

Not everything needs to be useful. Some things are simply for glory and for beauty.

In Christ,
Pastor Richard

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