Birthdays

R4E130821 – Birthdays (Special Days Study Lesson) by Douglas Jacoby

You can download the full audiobook recording on qobuz or amazon or itunes.

Are birthday parties unbiblical? Should we forbid them — and prevent our children from having some fun on their “big day”? The Jehovah’s Witnesses think so. In this podcast we’ll address three of their objections, and then offer one biblical observation.

1. First objection: Birthdays in the Bible appear in an unfavorable light.

  • “Do Bible references to birthday celebrations put them in a favourable light? The Bible makes only two references to such celebrations…Jehovah’s Witnesses take note that God’s Word reports unfavourably about birthday celebrations and to shun these.” (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 68-69).
  • They are referring to Genesis 40:20-22 and Matthew 14:6-10, the birthdays of two pagan rulers: Pharaoh and Herod.
  • Why unfavorable? Herod did evil, Pharaoh did evil, but also some good. And yet there’s a third birthday scripture, in which good is done. It is Job 1:4 (3:1!)
  • Thus it is not true that the Bible puts birthdays in a negative light.

2. Second objection: Birthday observances are rooted in paganism.

  • “Although considered to be a harmless secular custom day, birthday celebrations are actually rooter in paganism” (Jehovah’s Witnesses and Education, p. 15.)
  • Rooted in paganism?  So are many of our customs, like using the Nordic names for days of the week.
  • Besides, JWs inconsistent by this criterion, since they allow many practices that originate in paganism. Customs related to death, like tombstones; customs related to marriage: rice throwing, honeymoons, anniversaries, wedding rings, wedding veils, wedding cakes.
  • The question is not where they come from, but whether they are sinful. For example, birthday parties are wrong if they lead to drunkenness. We should not attend, or at least leave before while the evening is still young.

3. Third objection: Christians before the great apostasy (4th century) did not have birthday parties.

  • Probably regular birthday parties are something of an innovation. But JWs claim they’re an unbiblical development approved once Christianity had become perverted.
  • Yet the lack of mention of birthdays in early Christian records may have another reason. It might be for economic reasons — many of the early Christians simply could not afford them. This was no problem for Herod and Pharaoh, who had great wealth. Or Job, who is depicted as a man of great wealth – each of his seven sons is like a prince!

4. Clearly people kept track of their years.

  • Perhaps not everyone in the Bible observed birthdays, but Joseph and Mary knew when Jesus was 12 (Luke 2).
  • Many persons’ ages are listed.
  • Thus it’s not wrong to remember, or observe, one’s birthday.

Conclusion

  1. JW objections don’t hold water.
  2. It is clear that in biblical times people marked the passage of their birthdays.
  3. As parties are neutral—neither necessarily Christian nor necessarily sinful, whether one has a party is a matter of indifference. It’s a neutral matter, a matter of opinion.
  4. Romans 14:5-6 tell us not to judge others for this practice. Each should be convinced in his own mind as to the importance or non-importance of a particular day

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