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Birthdays -- Are they right or wrong?
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Posted by: Michael Stevenson on Fri, Sep 5, 2008
CHURCH OF GOD
AFTER years of research, this is the result of what the Church of God (Sabbath Day) Doctrinal Committee has come to the conclusion of in regards to birthdays and the observance of birthdays. Many have often written, e-mailed and called Church headquarters in regards to the observance of birthdays and have asked us deep questions in regards thereof. In answer to this, the Doctrinal Committee convened and has come to the conclusion as stated within this Doctrinal Publication.
Certainly the matter of birthdays and the observance of them is not the most important “doctrinal” question, but yet, it is needful that we clear up in print the questions regarding the observances of birthdays. As you may already well know, the Church has never really taught that Christians never should observe birthdays. Unless we all did so, we would never in reality know our ages. Each one of us has taken note of the date that we are born and the fact that we are another year older on a certain date of the year shows that.
The blessing to us is that the Bible in itself helps to keep track of the ages of the patriarchs and of the exact number of years the kings of Israel and Judah had reigned. Almost any true application form also requires an exact knowledge of one’s date of birth.
The Church of God traditionally has discouraged the practice of celebrations of birthdays. A celebration complete with the candles, the cake, and all the other things which surround it is quite different, of course, from a simple observance of knowing and keeping track of how old you really are.
True Biblical Evidence
Our teaching has always been based upon a few biblical examples. First off, we know, for example, that the chief baker had lost his own life on the occasion of Pharaoh’s birthday (Genesis 40). The decapitation of John the Baptist also occurred on the celebration of a birthday of a secular ruler—Herod Agrippa II (Matthew 14:6-10).
Further, we find that there is the example of a probable birthday celebration in the book of Job. In Job 1:4, we find that it reveals that “His (Job’s) sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each on his day…” This same Hebrew expression that is translated “his day” is equaled with Job’s birthday in chapter 3. “After this Job opened his mouth, and cursed the day of his birth (Hebrew: his day)…Let the day perish where I was born…”—Job 3:1, 3.
Job further said in connection with his own son’s festivities that is described in chapter 1: “…It may be that my sons have sinned…”—Job 1:5, but the drunkenness, promiscuity, or other immortal events that may possibly have taken place on the occasion were. Job’s offering to God was in the form of a “just in case” insurance policy (see v.5).
Apart from these examples, however, there is yet a possible third example in Ecclesiastes about the day of death as being better than one’s birth (Eccl. 7:1), yet the Bible is otherwise silent on this subject. As we look into this topic, we see that the Bible is not a complete and specific regulating authority on this matter and on every little behavior of the person as we must sometimes decide for ourselves what is important to live by and what is important for us to do in our own personal lives. For the mind of God becomes clearer to us, however as we search out the Word of God.
Conclusion from Other Scriptures
The very exact date of the birth of Christ is simply not revealed. God apparently did not intend for us to know the time or did not even intend for us to celebrate his birth, as he knew the pagans were fully accustomed to do. However, on the other side of this question, the birth of Christ does indeed occupy a fairly important segment of scripture—several long chapters (especially in Luke) are devoted to the manner of and circumstances that surround the birth of Jesus. It would be very erroneous to even imply that there was anything evil or even remotely sinful about the birthday of Jesus Christ. It was a very joyful and blessed event for all of mankind. But, God ordained that the date of his death should be observed—not the date of his birth (1 Cor. 11:24-26; John 13:14-17). Thus showing to us that it is more relevant that we should observe the death of the Savior and what the death done for the human family.
Thus, we have evidence therefore that the Bible does not give us a clear-cut picture, “Thus saith the lord,” on the question of any birthdays. Sometimes, God expects for us to exercise a degree of judgment and common sense when we are dealing with various situations—based, of course, upon biblical principles.
The fact that unfortunate events had taken place on two (or perhaps three) birthday celebrations, as is recorded within the Bible does not of itself imply or even hint to us that such observances are wrong. The Apostle Paul has shown to us that even sacred observances of the Passover was subject to abuse (1 Corinthian 11). Paul showed us how there were certain people who were getting drunk during the Passover observance. This does not, however, show to us that observing the Passover is wrong, but it is showing to us that partaking of alcohol should be done in moderation and that it is also good to have alcohol—but to avoid drunkenness. There is a positive way to do things and there are negative ways to do things. This includes what we do in regards to even the holy days.
The fact is still remaining that there is no command anywhere in the Bible to abstain or to observe birthdays. The examples that we have provided, however, should warn us that abuse on anything is possible and that we should avoid abusing no matter what.
The principles of God’s indicate to us that there needs to be balance and moderation in all things—meaning that all things that are right and good (Phil. 4:5). Like any party, a birthday observance can become a time for drunkenness-and or other moral infractions that should be avoided at all costs.
Now, let’s get down to specifics on some things. Should the children of members go to birthday parties? This is a question that has long been asked within the Church of God. First off, this will depend upon the situation and therefore requires the use of judgment on the parents part. If the teacher organizes a party on the birthday of a child, or the mother down the street does, there would be nothing that would prohibit the child from attending. In the past, some members have not allowed their children to attend such. But, that is based upon the judgment of the parents. The Church has nothing to say against this issue as it is deemed appropriate for the parents to have their say on this matter at a personal level. It is, however the opinion of the Church that if such a decision is made that can harm the child through embarrassment, isolation, and even religious persecution, then the parents should allow their child to attend. Such a celebration is intended to honor the child. A too-narrow reactionary stance on questions like these has often brought us needless persecution in the past and it is the opinion therefore of the Church that such should be avoided where possible.
Now, let’s say that your boss at work is having a birthday and there is a party being thrown in his honor. Is it wise not to contribute or to even show honor by not attending? The opinion of the Church in this matter is that you should honor your boss and honor him by chipping in. After all, he is the one who pays your salary and besides, we should “honor to whom honor; custom to whom custom” is the principle (Romans 13). Therefore, in such a case, attending an office party or one at the boss’ home is permissible. This situation would not come up but only once a year, it at all.
Now, what about holding birthday celebrations for ourselves or for our children? Is this permissible? We would not want to advise this. Why should we make such an annual event selfishly oriented and an ego-trip of someone’s birthday by holding a big celebration and virtually “commanding” people in the Church neighborhood to be there with a gift at such-and-such a time and place? In the Church, as large as ours is, every day of the year is always someone’s birthday. We can therefore exhaust all of our resources buying gifts for each other—especially if we printed all the members birthdays in the Church News.
What about if we want to wish someone happy birthday? No! This is not wrong at all. We wish that every day of the year could be happy for people. We of course do this as a gesture for people to have a happy birthday and a happy new year in their own lives.
How about gift giving? If it is necessary that we should give gifts at a birthday party on a rare occasion, then it would not be right to go empty handed without a gift. Just like for most of us, we usually choose to give someone gifts at the Feast of Tabernacles for example or at Thanksgiving. We do this in a way to say thanks for what has been done for us. We need to be cautious about going and expecting to receive, rather than going and giving.
Important Principles from the Scriptures
If a member is going to have a big birthday party, there is no evidence that he has sinned at all.
Notice some important scriptures that bear on this subject. Romans 14:1-13 tells us that as for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes that he might eat anything (edible), while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise the one who has abstained, and let the one who has abstained not pass judgment on him that has eaten; for God is the one who welcomes him. Therefore, this shows us that God welcomes all of us and that we should not look down upon another because they have had a birthday party. Remember, we are all at a certain maturity level in the Church.
Read what v.5 says to us: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or fails. And he will be upheld, for the master is able to make him stand.” Therefore, if a brother in the Church should decide to have some sort of celebration, the rest of us should never judge nor condemn him for having such. His relationship to God is a vertical one—not a lateral one that is filtered through the rest of the membership.
V. 17 tells us further that “For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” This is a key passage in the Bible that we all need to mark and never should we forget it! The Kingdom of God is not of the physical matters that we tend to enlarge into a huge problem. The Kingdom of God is not a huge birthday cake. A birthday cake never hurts anyone nor does it help anyone, as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned.
Concluding here, we want to look at vs. 12, 13, and 19: “So each of us shall give account of himself to God. Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother…Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Therefore, let us keep in mind that we should all be working together and if one has a birthday party, then we just continue to love him and to fellowship him and remember that it is up to the individual how they observe their birthday. Birthdays do remind us how old we are and they keep us in the reminder of the fact that we are entering a new year and a new milestone in life.
· 13 years, 1 month ago
The Bible often does not say one way or the other on issues that have nothing to do with Salvation and if it is not about Salvation of our Lord God then it is or should be up to each person if they have birthdays or not! We at Simple Salvation Church of God let people know if it has nothing to do about your salvation then do what you feel towards the Lord! If you celibrate birthdays for fun and because your happy to be alive another year then do it!
It is all about the Spirit of the Law and if it isn't in the Bible to not do then it is a personal thing for everyone to do anyways. Thank you for your Article and time ,may the Lord Yashua bless your church and may you grow in all truth. Pastor and founder Jimmie Warren
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