The Bible does not specifically address whether Christians should celebrate birthdays, though it does mention two people celebrating birthdays—the Egyptian Pharaoh during Joseph's time (Exodus 40:20) and King Herod during Jesus' time (Matthew 14:6; Mark 6:21). The fact of the birthdays is used as a historical marker with no indication that birthdays either should or should not be celebrated.
Can Christians celebrate birthdays?
As with many things where the Bible is silent, Romans 14 can be a helpful guiding principle. In discussing laws regarding certain foods and religious holidays, Paul instructed, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God" (Romans 14:5–6). Applying this to birthdays, those who choose to celebrate should do so in honor to God, with thanksgiving. Those who choose not to celebrate should also do so in honor to God, with thanksgiving. As 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
There are a few important things to note, however. Whether we choose to celebrate or not, we should not pass judgment on those who are convicted differently. Romans 14:13 says, "Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." Here we also see the importance of not putting a stumbling block in front of a fellow believer, meaning we should restrict our freedom if it will cause another believer to fall into sin.
Another important note for those who choose to celebrate birthdays is to do so in a way that honors God. Clearly a birthday party featuring drunkenness or lewd entertainment is inappropriate. On the other hand, celebrating a birthday can be an excellent reminder of the preciousness of the life that God has given us (Psalm 139; John 10:10). Those who choose not to celebrate should also do so in a way that honors God. Drawing attention to the fact that they are not celebrating as a means of trumpeting a perceived righteousness is obviously inappropriate. On the other hand, choosing to forego a celebration can be a way to remind oneself that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20–21).
In sum, Christians are free to celebrate birthdays or not. Regardless, just as with every aspect of our life, all should be done for God's glory and honor.
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