As Christians, we want to always hold ourselves to biblical standards rather than cultural standards. For this reason, some have questioned whether or not Christians can celebrate birthdays since it is a cultural practice. I searched the Bible to find the best answer I can to this question.
Should Christians celebrate birthdays? Christians can celebrate birthdays. There is nothing in Scripture that forbids it, nor is there any reason why celebrating birthdays could be considered unwise. Christians should feel free to celebrate their birthday in a God-glorifying way.
This has seemed obvious to me before, but after looking into it more I can understand a little why some might think the opposite of this statement. Some believe strongly Christians should not celebrate birthdays.
I’ll give my research why I think Christians can celebrate them and also why some disagree with me.
What the Bible Says
The Bible says to rejoice in the day the Lord has made. We should celebrate life because God created it.
This is the day that Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.Psalms 118:24
Each new day the Lord provides us with should be celebrated because God put breath in our lungs and gifted us the ability to participate in life. The Bible doesn’t command us to celebrate yearly the day of our birth, but it does say that we are to give thanks to God.
The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.Romans 14:6
We should make the most of every opportunity we are alive and rejoice in every day we get to be alive. God says we should be wise with our lives making the most of our time.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.Ephesians 5:15
Because the Bible does not say anything commanding that we should celebrate yearly the day that we were born, and also does not say anything against it, I think one gets to choose if they wish to celebrate birthdays.
Celebrating Birthdays Never Condemned
Nothing in the Bible says that birthdays should not be celebrated.
When we think of birthdays, it usually looks like celebrating your birthday or someone else’s by getting together and having fun with the people you love. Some people look to the phrase “eat, drink, and be merry” when celebrating saying that we should enjoy life and celebrate. However, this phrase is sometimes used out of context in the Bible.
In Ecclesiastes 8, it does say “I commend the enjoyment of life because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.”
What does this mean? Does this mean Solomon who is the author of this portion of scripture, is promoting a lifestyle of not really worrying about anything and living for the moment? No.
Actually, if you look above this verse just a few verses earlier it talks about Solomon promoting righteousness and warning against wickedness. “I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them.”
So fearing and being reverent to Him, is more important than pursuing something that could cause sin. Celebrating life and enjoying ourselves, should be done in a God-honoring way. Jesus mentions a few times we are not to be drunk with wine but filled with the Holy Spirit.
With that being said, Jesus celebrated and participated in celebrations. His first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast, and participating in it. Jewish weddings were often days long eating and drinking wine. Jesus participated in several celebrations, ones that were done in a way that was still honoring to God. But he also talked about the dangers of “living in the moment” and warned against being drunk with wine. When it came to specifically birthday celebrations, Jesus never really talked about it; whether they were good or bad.
The Few Mentions of Birthdays
In the Old Testament, it talks about multiple Pharaohs celebrating their birthdays. In the New Testament, it talks about Herod celebrating his birthday. They had feasts, danced, ate, drank, and were merry. In Genesis 40 it talks about how the King made a feast for all his servants.
In the different passages that mentioned birthdays and celebrations, they usually were done for Pharaohs or Kings. John the Baptist was actually beheaded for Herodias’ daughter’s birthday request. Because of her mother pushing her for this, she asked her father King Herodias’ for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
Birthdays Are a Cultural Practice
Many cultures do not celebrate birthdays. And that’s totally fine.
Birthdays are also not a necessary celebration.
Celebrating birthdays can simply be a fun way of celebrating another year of life for an individual. It is not something required, nor something condemned. When birthdays are mentioned in scripture, the celebrations were typically done by Kings or Pharaohs and not talked about in necessarily a positive way.
Why Some Are Against It
Birthdays are never spoken of well in scripture. And if you look back to ancient times, birthdays were not just a celebration, some say they were used back then for casting out a horoscope based off of “the mystic science of astrology.”
In folk belief, birthday candles were a sign for granting wishes using “special magic.” With that being said, the Bible does condemn the use of magic. One of the reasons God’s wrath came on the ancient city of Babylon was that the people practiced astrology (Isaiah 47:11-15).
Also, whenever the Bible does show someone celebrating birthdays, it was never done by one of God’s servants. It was done by people who weren’t following God.
In scripture, a verse used to make a point siding against making a big deal of birthdays is Ecclesiastes 7:1 where it says “the day of death is better than the day of birth.” In Ecclesiastes, it continues to talk about the importance of mourning rather than celebrating.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.Ecclesiastes 7:4
Some question why there are several passages in Scripture that talk about the importance of mourning death, but not about celebrating birth.
Lastly, the early Christians did not seem to be celebrating birthdays. They could have been, we just don’t see anywhere that says they did celebrate birthdays. Jesus’ disciples were more concerned with preaching the Gospel, than celebrating themselves I guess.
When birthday celebrations were talked about in scriptures they were not in much detail. It almost seemed like they kind of forced the celebrations wanting to use their authority to promote themselves.
How to Celebrate Well
I personally think it still is okay to celebrate birthdays. As long as one is not doing anything that dishonors God. I think it can be fun to focus on others instead of yourself for one another’s birthdays, and possibly ask what you can do for them instead.
God calls us to rejoice, and God wants us to encourage and lift one another up. If one does decide to celebrate birthdays we should first honor God who created that individual. We should recognize the good gift of life that God gives. He is the one that gives us breath.
Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.Acts 17:25
It is good to care for our friends and family and show them how much their life matters. Whether that is every day by making a conscious effort to show the people you love they matter, or by throwing a huge party or even a simple celebration, anyone can show their loved ones they care. As Christians, we are called to be uplifting each other up.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11
The most important thing is to put God first no matter what, and like the early Christians, they focused on sharing the Gospel all the days of their life. Just like they did, we should do also. The early Christians created an environment where bodies of believers came together to encourage, rebuke, challenge, and strengthen each other’s faith.
We should do that too. The greatest commandment is to first love God with all our hearts and then love others like yourself. We are the body of Christ and we should walk in that.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.1 Corinthians 12:27
Praise God for the lives of others around you, show them you care and they matter.
Praise God for another day to be alive because every breath is a gift from God.
Thank God for your life today.