The Christian Birthday Controversy: To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate?
By Sylvia Cochran – Christian Parenting
Should you host a birthday party for your child? If you ask a member of the Restored Church of God – and other Christian denominations –
the answer is an emphatic “no!” Yet the reasons for putting the kibosh on birthday parties are not quite as persuasive as they might appear at first glance.
Why Birthday Parties have gotten a bad Biblical Rap
When Pharaoh celebrated his birthday (Genesis 40:20-22), he executed his baker. When Herod held his debauched birthday party (Matthew 14:6-11), he ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded. Looking at these two examples, it is fair to say that nothing good comes out of a birthday celebration. In fact, it would appear that birthdays and executions go hand in hand. Then there is the charge that birthdays were simply an excuse for Romans to engage in their astrology-fueled Pagan revelries.
A brief Trip back in Time
Romans were famous for their record keeping. Whether it was a storehouse inventory, a detailed genealogical chart of the ruling families or birth records; Romans kept meticulous data catalogs. Peasants of the day were too busy eking out a meager existence to satisfy Rome’s hunger for taxes and tributes. Not surprisingly, birthday celebrations were mostly held by the Pagans of the time, not the Christian believers.
I see Your Innuendo and Raise You a Hint
The anti-birthday crowd does not stop there. While all acknowledge that the Bible is silent on the issue of birthday celebrations, those who oppose the practice as unbiblical will point to ancillary evidence for support. Since turnabout is fair play, I believe that we can answer some of the allegations in the same vein.
- Job’s children were (supposedly) killed at a birthday party. Yes, Job 1:13 does recount the feasting and the deaths; does this mean that birthday parties are a foothold for Satan? Consider that Job 1:1 identifies him as “blameless and upright.” Where did his children get the penchant for birthday parties, if not from him?
- The Bible does not tell us to celebrate birthdays. True; at the same time, it does not forbid us from doing so. If you really want to go sola scriptura, the celebration of birthdays is permitted, since it is not expressly forbidden.
- Birthday celebrations are idolatrous. It gets a bit sticky here. Self-glorification is idolatrous indeed, but what child is consciously a glory hound? Let’s remember that children are a reward from God (Psalm 123:3). Celebrating the anniversary of this reward is not idolatrous.
Keeping the Birthday Celebration spiritually grounded
I think we have pretty much debunked the myth that birthdays are evil. Even so, there are some slippery slopes and room for problems. For instance, if you blow your rent money on your child’s birthday party, you are neglecting the command to be wise with your funds. If you rent a petting zoo and party clown, but have no money left over for a tithe, you are neglecting the command to bring in the whole offering.
If you, as an adult, choose to have copious amounts of alcohol at your party, you may be causing people to stumble (spiritually as well as physically); this is in direct violation of 1 Corinthians 8:9. In short, do not allow any portion of the festivities to run contrary to the doctrine in which you have placed your faith.
Why Birthday Parties are actually OK
In 1 Peter 4:9, Christians are urged to be hospitable without complaint. What is more hospitable than inviting friends, family members and future friends to a nice meal, festive atmosphere, scrumptious cake and happy fellowship? Just make sure that your goodie bags are bigger than the presents the friends bring. Remember to invite the “outsiders” who need a little help connecting with the peer group. Serve a tasty meal (not an expensive one) and delight guests and birthday boy or girl alike with the fellowship.
When you look at a birthday celebration in this light, there really isn’t much controversy, now is there?
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