Some Christians don’t celebrate birthdays claiming that it is against God. This is based on the events surrounding Pharaoh’s and Herod’s birthday celebrations where Baker and John the Baptist were killed. Job was cursing his day of birth and one’s day of death is better that his birthday as per the author of Ecclesiastes. In this post, we will explore if birthday celebrations are indeed against God.
Chief Baker was hanged on Pharaoh’s birthday
Now it came to pass on the third day, [which was] Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.Gen 40:20-22
Chief baker was hanged on Pharaoh’s birthday. The above passage is mentioning a historical event. There is nothing in those passages that condemn any birthday celebrations. To be fair, the chief butler was restored of his butlership on the same day.
John the Baptist was beheaded on Herod’s birthday
But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter … So he sent and had John beheaded in prison.Matt 14:6-8,10
John the Baptist was beheaded during the birthday celebrations of Herod. This again is simply mentioning a historical event and nothing in it condemns any birthday celebrations.
Job cursing his day of birth
After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his [birth.]Job 3:1
Job was cursing his day of birth because of his suffering. The Bible didn’t teach anyone to curse their day of birth.
“A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.John 16:21
On the contrary, Jesus explains how there is joy for the mother when a child is born into this world. We also see how many will rejoice at the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:14) and how the birth of Jesus was announced (Luke 2:11).
Better is day of death than one’s birth
.. the day of death than the day of one’s birth;Ecclesiastes 7:1
The above is very true. The day Jesus defeated death itself on the cross by His own death is the most important day. This does not by any means teach not to celebrate any birthdays.
Birthdays are traditions
Celebrating birthdays are traditions to remember the joy of one’s birth.
“Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me [is] a gift [to God]”– ‘then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.Matthew 15:2-6
Scriptures are never against the traditions of elders as long as they don’t nullify the commandments of God. In the above passage — Jesus wasn’t against washing hands before eating, but He was indeed against the tradition of giving a gift to God and avoid honouring their parents. Celebrating birthdays by themselves are not a problem, but we must make sure we aren’t following anything that are against God and His commandments. It is also worth noting that different cultures celebrate birthdays differently.
Birthday celebrations are traditions to remember and rejoice on one’s birth. While Scripture mention executions on birthday celebrations of two kings as historical events, it never condemns such traditions as long as they don’t nullify any commandments of God.