Should Christians Have A Christmas Tree? What Did Jeremiah Actually Mean By That Warning In The Bible?
This is the time of year when some people go off on tangents about what Christians should do and not do when celebrating this holiday we call Christmas. Several people have been asking me about this today on my Facebook page. Here is my response to this common holiday question.
Should Christians have a Christmas Tree? And what did Jeremiah actually mean when he started warning people about decorating trees and giving a stern announcement of God's judgement on such practices?
My personal opinion, when I see people on Facebook telling others to take their Christmas tree down and 'repent for the soon coming judgement of God is going to be upon them!' is that this is such a misinterpretation it is a part of the religious spirit to destroy the message of Christmas. We need to walk in Freedom. But if we want to do a thorough research on this passage, so that our freedom can be sound and secure, we must realize that the historical interpretation of this verse was NOT even talking about a Christmas tree or the forbidding of this holiday, as this verse occurred many years before the birth of Jesus.
Let’s look at the context of this passage.
What exactly does Jeremiah 10 say? Below is Jeremiah 10:1-10:
This is what the LORD says: "Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. 3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good." 6 No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. 8 They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. 9 Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple– all made by skilled workers. 10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath."
The verses that the concerned Facebook people repeatedly cite are chapter 10:2-4: "Do not learn the ways of the nations . . . For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter."
"Aha!" these people say. "Jeremiah is talking about the Christmas tree!" But a closer examination reveals that he certainly is not! Let’s go a littler further into the chapter, shall we?
Verse 10:5, goes on to say, "Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good."
This verse and the ones that follow show us that the "decorated tree" that Jeremiah was talking about in 10:3-4, was a tree that was cut down and made into an idol. This was a very common custom at that time. Idolatry has it’s demonstrations in every generation, and this is what occurred during Jeremiah’s time period. Verse 10:8-10 also shows this, where the wooden idols are compared with the LORD. Keil and Delitsch, a very trust worthy Old Testament commentary, confirms this interpretation that the trees in question were idols that were being worshiped as god. (C. F. Keil and F. Delitsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, "Jeremiah, Lamentations," vol 8 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eeerdmans Publishing Company, 1980)
If we take the time and read through the Old Testament, we find a lot of examples of trees being planted, cut down and turned into false gods, or idols of worship. One that is very significant is the Asherah tree. We know that Asherah was a pagan goddess who was worshipped at that time. She was thought to be the ruler of the sea, or so they say. She was always portrayed as a tree or a pole, planted or posted, then decorated. There are many many warnings against worshipping the Asherah tree in the Old Testament. Just do a Bible search on YouVersion.com and you’ll see it for yourself.
In Exodus 34:12-14, we read, "Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." From a more thorough study we learn that the Asherah idol was sometimes planted (Deut. 16:21; Micah 5:14), sometimes erected at high places (1 Kings 14:23, 2 Kings 17:10), with altars and incense standing next to them where they would be worshiped. In Judges 6:25, Gideon is commanded by God to "Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it." See also Isaiah 17:8 and Jeremiah 17:2. The Asherah, along with other man-made idols, were often decorated with various cloth hangings (2 Kings 23:7), as well as gold and silver.
As we move further into Isaiah 44:14-19 we see a detailed picture of how a tree was cut down and fashioned into an idol – and the absurdity of it all.
"He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is man's fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm; I see the fire." 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, "Save me; you are my god." 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, "Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
We can see clearly that in the Old Testament, cutting down a tree, decorating it and worshipping it AS god and as one’s idol was clearly the forbidden practice. It has NOTHING to do with observing a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Most people have no clue that the Old Testament speaks of all of this and are simply decorating a tree to celebrate and have fun.
Never ever forget that God looks at the heart and He isn’t up in heaven with a suspicious intent of finding His followers ‘caught’ in the act of something that He must come down and judge them for.
The Bible teaches that ALL of the wrath of God was placed on Jesus. And that Jesus died in our place, satisfying that wrath, so that no one ever had to live apart from God again. He says to receive this free gift and we shall have eternal life. Ironic isn’t it? That someone would teach that GOD so loved the world that He gave His only son to die for them but now He is suspicious and angry and looking to judge people who have a tree in their living room? I think now.
If you are gathering around your tree this holiday season and praying to it, worshipping it and asking it to answer your prayers, well, we might want to see if there are other issues that need to be discussed. *wink* But I highly doubt that this is what most people are doing during this wonderful holiday.
Celebrate in LOVE.
That is what the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is about. GOD taking our sin away, forever, through Jesus and offering this gift to us. With a simple choice of our will, and a surrendering of our heart, we can be free. BE free my friends and live in the freedom that Jesus paid for you. And hey, enjoy your Christmas tree with your family and some hot apple cider!
Rather than obsessing about whether or not someone should have a tree in their home, decorated in all of it's splendor, let's focus on the real reason for the season: JESUS. His unending, generous, kind love for us all. How about we pay a bill this holiday season anonymously for someone who can't? Why don't we feed the hungry and buy them groceries? Or invite someone who is lonely into our home and share love and kindness with them?
Love to you all! #BEMORE,