Two Kinds of Craftsmen


Is there a danger that we may use our gifts to build idols rather than God’s kingdom?


God has gifted his people to serve him (1 Cor. 12:4-7). We are called to use God’s gifts in his way for his kingdom and glory. However, it is possible for God’s people to misuse their gifts and build idols. One of the most poignant illustrations of this in Scripture is seen when we compare Exodus 31 and Exodus 32.

In Exodus 31 we observe that just as specifically as God chose Moses and Aaron for service to him, he also chose craftsmen to serve him. God endowed Bezalel with craftsman skills and called him to do the work of building the tent of meeting as well as creating all that would be within it. (Exod. 31:2). God also blessed many other craftsmen to assist (Exod. 31:6). Yes, these were what we'd today call Spirit-led construction workers. God saw the work of his artisans as important and just as dependent on the Holy Spirit as those he called with spiritual gifts. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit to glorify the LORD.

In contrast, in Exodus 32 we see some other craftsmen at work. Under the direction of Aaron – a man – these artisans crafted a golden calf – an idol (Exod. 32:1-6). Their work resulted in something far from God’s blessing. They instead contributed to God’s righteous anger (Exod. 32:9-10), the death of many (Exod. 32:25-29), and even a plague on the people (Exod. 32:33-35).

The LORD said, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3). But if even prominent biblical figures like Aaron can build an idol (Exod. 32:1-4) and worship before it (Exod 32:5), what about us? Shouldn't we watch ourselves? (2 Cor. 13:5). Paul and John understood the dangers of idolatry and their words warn us as well (1 Cor. 10:14; 1 John 5:21).

As Christians, we are all living stones before the Lord (1 Pet. 2:4-5). That phrase “living stones” reminds us of the stones that were later used to build the temple. But what are we building today? How are we using our time? Are we building the Lord’s temple as spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16, 17, 19?

Let's do some math. There are 168 hours in a week and say we each spend 8 hours a day sleeping, which amounts to 56 hours a week. And let’s say we each consider ourselves really committed Christians and spend 12 hours a week attending worship, praying, and doing missions, etc. This leaves 100 hours and, of course, our jobs would account for a good bit of that. But what constitutes the remaining time? What are we building? How are we using our craftsman skills? What have we already built? Who and what are we worshiping? Is God being glorified by all we do and say?

Christians need to be building the kingdom of God with each and every thing we say and do. We must ask ourselves if we are imagining, planning, even building idols and focusing on them; for example, a new car, a vacation, that new golf club, or piece of jewelry? Are we worshipping idols such as a job, a house, a boat, a hobby, etc.?

2 Corinthians 13:5: Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

We are Christian craftsmen. We have a part in building God's kingdom for his glory, not petty idols.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).