Question of the Week: Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate holidays that aren’t mentioned in the Bible?
In order to determine if anything is right or wrong for a Christian to do, there are three criteria we need to judge it by in order to conclude whether it is Christ-like behavior. Did Jesus condemn it? Did Jesus model it? And did the followers of Jesus follow through on the matter in light of His life and Old Testament Scriptures?
Follow me as I follow Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)
Did Jesus condemn the celebration of certain holidays? No. The only time He ever addressed the celebration of certain days above others were regarding the Sabbath day. In a situation where tradition had taken over the intent that holiday was first given to man, Jesus clarified the purpose of that holiday on the authority that could only come from the one who founded it to begin with. He didn’t condemn the celebration of a holiday, but how it was being celebrated. The attitude in which we approach certain celebrations or observances are what matter most to Him given what we actually have Him speaking about regarding the celebration of holidays.
Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him? And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:23-28 (NKJV)
Did Jesus ever model the celebration of holidays that aren’t mentioned in the Bible? Yes. The Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah, was something Jesus personally celebrated despite the fact it was not an event recorded in scripture. The book of 1 Maccabees details for us the revolt led by Judas Maccabeus and the miracle that followed during the reign of Antiocus Ephiphanes during the Hellenistic occupation of Jerusalem. The Jewish nation chose to remember a moment where God miraculously made a day’s worth of oil last over a week as they prepared more in order to obey the Temple Laws after driving out the Greeks that were persecuting them for it. In a demonstration of God being faithful to His promises as they were faithful to His commands, neither Judas Maccabeus nor the Jews who preserved his legacy claimed he was a prophet of God. Yet Jesus celebrated this holiday outside of the Bible’s commands. This was either a sinful action on Jesus’ part, or merely another opportunity He took advantage of to talk to people about the things God had done and was doing in their history. It’s fair to assume it’s the latter.
Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.
John 10:22-23 (NKJV)
The final test we could hold the behavior of celebrating non-biblical holidays to are the teachings of Jesus’ followers that bore witness to His example first-hand. And regarding the celebration of any kind of holiday, they have no words of condemnation for that kind of behavior. The only thing they address was the same thing Jesus modeled. It doesn’t matter when you celebrate something, but why and how you are celebrating it.
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.
Romans 14:5-13 (NKJV)
Notice that Paul the Apostle equates the decision to celebrate or not to celebrate on particular days as good things under the condition that it is with the Lord as the focus. If you are uncomfortable celebrating a holiday because of supposed historical controversies or modern distortions, then spend that day focusing on God instead. If you are fine with focusing on God during that holiday, you are just as Christian in doing so as you would if you chose not to. The only word of condemnation is the attitude of looking down on and condemning each other for acting against your own convictions. If Jesus is made the focus of that holiday, then it’s not sinful to focus on Jesus on a particular day. If Jesus is the focus regardless of that holiday, it is not sinful to forego celebrating that holiday with higher priorities in mind.
A Reason For Hope is a ministry of Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
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