Is it wrong to celebrate birthdays?

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I’m interested in your stance on birthdays. Since celebrating them has pagan origins like Easter and Christmas, I think we should not.

The Church does not have a doctrine on birthdays, for or against. We are aware of the claim that celebrat­ing them has pagan roots but not aware of proof for that claim. It is certain that birthdays were noted in Bible times, for that’s the means of telling a person’s age. Knowing a person’s age — whether saint or sinner — was common then, too. The day and month of all sorts of Bible events are given, some celebrated and some not: the Flood (Gen. 8:13); Passover (Ex. 23:15); cleansing of the temple (2 Chron. 29:17); victory of the Jews over their enemies (Est. 9:15-22); etc.

The day and month on which people were born, however, or the date of their death, are not commonly stat­ed. This is also true of the days people were converted or baptized. Still, being born or being born again — commemorating either of these is not prohibited in Scripture.

Pharaoh celebrated his birthday with one humanitar­ian act — “he restored the chief butler to his butler-ship” — and one act of vengeance — “he hanged the chief baker” (Gen. 40:21, 22). The first doesn’t make cel­ebrating birthdays good, and the other doesn’t make celebrating birthdays bad.

Job (3:1ff) and Jeremiah (20:14-18) thought of their birthdays as grievous because of the trouble in their lives, but such feelings do not require all of us to hate our birthdays and wish we had not been born! Jeremiah, in fact, may imply that the blessing of one’s birthday was practiced. And if “their appointed day” means birthday (Job 1:4, 5) and if celebrating it was sin­ful, Job would not have been in doubt about whether or not they had sinned.

Herod celebrated his birthday in a lustful and adul­terous manner, leading to the execution of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:6; Mark 6:21); but this is not proof that celebrating it was wrong. His method was wrong, obviously, but not the fact of his celebration.

The Bible gives several definitions of sin. The one that fits here is “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). If we think celebrating a birthday is sin, then we should not do it — until we are convinced that such a celebration of itself is not sin.

— Elder Roy A. Marrs  

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    Jason Overman
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    Jason Overman is Editor of Publications of the Bible Advocate Press. After 24 years in the publishing industry (in sales and management) with the Harrison Daily Times, Jason left his general manager’s position to join the BAP family in 2015. He has served in ministry for 30 years and currently pastors the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Jasper, Arkansas, with his wife, Stephanie, and two children, Tabitha and Isaac. Jason enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, reading theology, playing his guitar, and taking in the beautiful Ozark Mountains he calls home.