The Ten Commandments begin with a warning against the worship of other gods. The second commandment forbids worship of images: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them …" (Exodus 20:4-5). Some have understood this to even include pictures of images of Jesus. It is argued that such a picture could cause a person to worship the image rather than Christ Himself. Is it wrong to have pictures of Jesus?
Is it okay to have pictures of Jesus?
It is clear that worship of images is a very real danger. The Israelites often worshiped other gods, even including aspects of "proper" worship with pagan idolatry. Because of this, it is important to carefully guard against the worship of any images, whether of a celebrity or even of Jesus. In fact, it is evident from the lack of description of Jesus' appearance in the Bible that what Jesus looked like is not an issue of concern. We only know that "he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2).
It has been argued that part of the reason God commanded both against other gods and against idolatry is that He was commanding us not to view Him as less than He really is. There is no way that our earthly works of art can capture the fullness of God's majesty. Because Jesus is God, images of Him may have the effect of limiting our concept of Him.
And yet early Christians used art in a variety of ways in worship of God. Archaeological finds have revealed an array of artifacts that reveal the use of art to glorify God existed very early in the Christian movement. We are each given special abilities to serve God (Romans 12). For some believers, this includes the ability to produce artwork of biblical scenes, including Jesus, that can inspire and encourage others. Many believers use a picture of Jesus as a reminder to pray or that Jesus is there with them at all times. Others refer to a particular picture of Jesus as a reminder to share Him with unbelievers throughout the day. These and other responses are appropriate, helpful ways in which artwork featuring Jesus can serve a positive role in the lives of believers.
However, it is unnecessary to have a picture of Jesus to be reminded of His greatness. His glory is seen in the nature around us (Psalm 19), in the love of God seen in other believers, in Scripture, and in our own lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. While a picture of Jesus can serve as an encouragement or reminder of His greatness, it is unessential to knowing God's will and living for Him and may inadvertently lead us to think less of God.
We must acknowledge that no picture can fully communicate the mighty power and love of Jesus Christ. While artwork can help in a variety of ways, such images are limited in comparison with the power of God's Word (Hebrews 4:12) as well as God's Spirit at work in our lives to help us experience the Lord's strength for our lives.
Who is Jesus Christ?
How can I worship the Lord in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)? What is true worship?
What is the definition of idolatry?
Why are the Ten Commandments important? What are the Ten Commandments?
Religiosity - What is it?
Truth about Jesus Christ