faith & the Mona Lisa

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Suppose you viewed the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. As the most famous, valuable painting in the world, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, it would be hard not to revel in the moment- regardless of the degree to which you appreciate the art for its aesthetics.

As you experienced art at its height, the depth of the moment settled onto your shoulders. Not surprisingly, praise welled up inside of you.

What’s going on? Why do you feel praise? Who are you praising?

“Oh, I’m praising myself for this,” someone could say. “Look, I’ve just created an incredible experience by being here at the Louvre Museum, viewing a painting of incredible worth because I understand its value.”

Your mouth might rightly fall open if you heard that. “Is this moment so obviously about you and how much your mind can grasp the significance of what is here? What nonsense!” We know that to praise oneself would be utmost conceit. “Where were you when da Vinci created his masterpiece?” You mirht be tempted to ask. “You are simply one of the thousands who has been honored to benefit from magnificence of which you had no part.”

Perhaps the answer someone gives is, “I am praising the Mona Lisa. It is beautiful, masterful, and breath-taking in its modesty. How stunning to experience such skill, age, and value as this single painting!”

In the presence of a worthy piece, personal insignificance is quickly perceived. “Who am I to experience a moment such as this?” is a pertinent question. It is a worthy creation. However, praise means nothing to this painting: despite its worth, it is an inanimate piece.

Behind the Mona Lisa is Leonardo da Vinci. It was his mastery which left behind this legacy for the world to experience.  It is not hard to understand, in the moment when you feel praise for what you are experiencing, that the praise belongs to the master and creator of the moment.

*     *     *     *     *

I’ve been wanting to talk about faith. Faith seems to be a complicated word based on modern understanding and interpretation. People at times shy away from it because it’s so abused by some branches of religion or because we don’t know what people will think of our interpretation of faith. Right now, I’m on a personal journey to understand Biblical faith more accurately.

I’m not trying to define faith right here, but instead to point the focus back to where it belongs. I’ve heard people abuse faith by claiming that a lack of faith-accomplishing-miracles is an indictment against an individual. However, faith, at it’s heart, isn’t about people per se despite how much humankind needs Biblical faith. To pin the worth and merit of faith on a person is like giving glory to oneself for experiencing the Mona Lisa. It’s a skewed focus and makes no sense.

I’ve heard faith quantified by people who say “If _____ isn’t happening in your life, you don’t have enough faith.” Yes, faith is vital and profound, but putting all your focus on quantified faith is like praising the Mona Lisa for creating a masterful moment. Ultimately there’s something deeper and more magnificent in the background.

Instead faith looks away from individuals and away from itself to God. We know God and give praise to God because of God, not because we know God through faith. We see miracles accomplished not because there is faith but because there is God Who saves us by faith. When I study faith, I am struck by the reality that Biblical faith is founded in God, springs from God, and looks to God- always, with no exceptions. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
-Ephesians 2:8-9

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2 thoughts on “faith & the Mona Lisa

  1. Excellent post, Amy! Thank you for sharing so succinctly about the topic of faith. Your example about the Mona Lisa was a wonderful one and made your main point very clear.

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