Celebrations are an integral part of human existence. From birthdays to religious holidays, humans have always found reasons to gather, feast, and make merry. But what does the Bible have to say about celebrating? Read on to explore the biblical foundations of celebration.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible portrays celebrations in a mostly positive light, with feast days ordained by God and joyful celebrations described throughout. However, it also warns against drunkenness and gluttony.
Biblical Feast Days
The Sabbath is one of the most important feast days in the Bible. God commanded a day of rest on the seventh day to remember His work in Creation (Exodus 20:8-11). The Sabbath celebrates God as Creator and His finished work.
It is a weekly reminder for us to pause from our labors and focus on our relationship with God.
Passover celebrates God delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12). Each year, Jewish families hold a ritual Passover meal called a Seder to remember how the angel of death “passed over” their homes when the firstborn sons of the Egyptians were killed.
The Passover lamb sacrificed and eaten reminds them of the blood of the lamb that saved their firstborns.
Feast of Weeks
The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, takes place 50 days after Passover. It celebrates two key events – God giving His commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ followers after His ascension (Acts 2).
This important feast reminds God’s people of His laws that guide their lives, and the gift of the Holy Spirit who empowers them.
Feast of Trumpets
The Feast of Trumpets signals the beginning of the High Holy Days. According to tradition, it anticipates God’s final judgment of humanity when the trumpets will sound and Christ returns (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
The feast is a call to reflect on the year gone by, repent, and make things right with God and man in preparation for the coming judgment.
Day of Atonement
Considered the holiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement is all about repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. Jewish people fast and pray as a sign of repentance for their sins over the past year.
They also remember God’s mercy in providing atonement and forgiveness of sins through the sacrificial system (Leviticus 16:1-34).
Feast of Booths
The joyous Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles) celebrates the Fall harvest and commemorates God sheltering the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings (Leviticus 23:33-43). Jewish families build temporary outdoor huts and decorate them with crops.
The weeklong feast is full of singing, dancing, and feasting together to thank God for His provision and protection.
Weddings and Parties
Wedding at Cana
The wedding at Cana is found in John 2:1-11 and describes Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine. Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother Mary told him about the situation.
Jesus instructed the servants to fill six stone water jars with water. When the master of the banquet tasted the water that had turned into wine, he remarked that the bridegroom had saved the best wine for last, not knowing where it had come from.
This miraculous sign was the first of Jesus’ signs that revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him.
This passage provides some interesting insights into weddings and parties during Jesus’ time. Wedding feasts could last for days and wine was an essential part of the celebration. Running out of wine would have been an embarrassing social faux pas for the bridegroom.
Jesus did not hesitate to save them from humiliation by miraculously turning water into high quality wine. His actions reflect God’s desire to bless people’s joyful celebrations. Jesus cares about the details of our lives.
This first sign also reveals Jesus’ divine power and glory. The large quantity and fine quality of wine produced shows his abundant grace. As the gospel writer John noted, this sign displayed Jesus’ glory and led people to put their faith in him.
Jesus is the divine bridegroom who provides richly for the celebration of union with his people.
Parable of the Great Banquet
The Parable of the Great Banquet is found in Luke 14:15-24. Jesus told this parable after noticing how guests picked the places of honor at a feast. When one guest declared “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God,” Jesus responded with the parable.
In the story, a man prepared a great banquet and sent invitations to many guests. But when the time came, they all made excuses not to come – one had bought a field, another had bought oxen, and another had married a wife.
So the master sent his servant out to bring in the poor, crippled, blind, and lame from the streets and lanes. After doing this, there was still room, so the master said to go out to the roads and country lanes and compel people to come in so his house would be full.
Jesus concludes by saying none of those original guests would taste his banquet. This parable underscores the great privilege of being invited to God’s kingdom and the seriousness of rejecting that invitation.
Those too busy with worldly affairs to respond to God’s call will miss out on the heavenly celebration. On the other hand, the poor and outcast are welcomed in. God’s banquet hall will be filled by those who accept his invitation.
As with any party, the guests make the event. God provides abundantly, but wants guests who will come with joy and thanksgiving for his grace. This parable reminds us not to be distracted by temporal concerns and to prioritize responding to God’s invitation.
Cautions Against Excess
The Bible encourages believers to celebrate and rejoice in the Lord with thanksgiving (Psalm 118:24; Philippians 4:4). However, it also warns against celebrating in a way that leads to excess, greed, covetousness, and gluttony.
Here are some principles from Scripture to keep in mind when celebrating:
Avoid drunkenness and addiction
While alcohol in moderation is not forbidden in Scripture, drunkenness is strongly condemned (Ephesians 5:18; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3). The Bible warns that drunkenness leads to lack of self-control, violence, sexual immorality, and addiction. As Proverbs 23:29-35 states:
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. “
This passage vividly describes how alcohol addiction destroys lives. As Christians, we should avoid any substance or activity that could lead to loss of self-control or addiction.
Practice self-control and discipline
Self-control and discipline are fruits of the Spirit that should be cultivated in every area of life (Galatians 5:22-23). Celebrations often involve tempting foods and activities that require wisdom and moderation. As 1 Corinthians 6:12 states:
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.”
While celebrations can be fun and enjoyable, they should not be opportunities for self-indulgence. Believers should focus on glorifying God, edifying others, and avoiding excess.
Avoid covetousness and greed
Gift-giving and parties can sometimes bring out covetousness and greed in people. The Bible warns against loving money, possessions, and getting caught up in materialism (Luke 12:15; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:10). As James 4:1-3 states:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.”
Rather than desiring more possessions and gifts, Christians should be content with what they have and focus on giving rather than receiving at celebrations (Acts 20:35). The joy of fellowship, thanksgiving, and glorifying God should be the focus.
Be a good steward of money
Many celebrations involve spending significant amounts of money on food, decorations, gifts, travel, and activities. Christians should be wise stewards of the money God has given them (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:10-12).
Lavish spending should be avoided, and budgets should be kept within reasonable limits. As Proverbs 21:20 warns:
“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.”
Rather than going into debt or wasting money on excess, believers should spend in moderation and direct any extra funds to needs of the church, poor, and spreading the Gospel.
Keep your focus on Christ
In the busyness of celebrations, it’s easy to forget why we celebrate in the first place – the grace and salvation of Jesus Christ. As Colossians 3:1-2 instructs:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Celebrations should ultimately glorify God and draw people’s hearts closer to Him. Christians should remember that life is short and eternity is what truly matters (James 4:14).
The Bible encourages believers to gather together and celebrate joyfully. According to Scripture, celebrations bring glory to God and allow His people to express gratitude, enjoy community, and point to the redemption found in Christ (Psalm 100:1-2, Acts 2:46-47).
Biblical Examples of Celebrations
There are many examples in the Bible of God’s people celebrating together. For instance, after the Israelites safely crossed the Red Sea, Moses led them in a song of celebration to the Lord (Exodus 15:1-21).
When David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he “celebrated with all his might before the Lord” including dancing and music (2 Samuel 6:14-15). And we read that there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15:7, 10).
Principles for God-Honoring Celebrations
The Bible gives some key principles for celebrations that bring glory to God:
- Celebrations should express gratitude and praise to God (Psalm 9:1-2, Psalm 100:4).
- God’s people should invite and welcome outsiders to join in celebrations, as celebrations give a glimpse of God’s kingdom (Luke 14:12-14).
- Celebrations should be characterized by generosity and concern for the poor and needy (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).
- Everything in celebrations should ultimately point people to Jesus and the salvation he offers (Revelation 5:9-14).
Appropriate Forms of Celebration
The Bible shows believers celebrating in many positive ways. Some appropriate forms of celebration include:
- Singing, dancing, music, and other creative arts offered to the Lord (Psalm 150:1-6).
- Festive mealsshared generously with others (Nehemiah 8:10-12).
- Gift-giving as an expression of God’s grace (Esther 9:19-22).
- Remembering and retelling God’s gracious acts (Psalm 145:4-7).
In all things, celebrations among Christians should be characterized by joy, generosity, inclusiveness, and bring praise to God for his marvelous grace.
The Bible Project has an excellent, biblically-based article on the Sabbath and celebrations that gives further perspective on this topic.
In the Bible, celebrations and feasts ordained by God are portrayed as joyful events that bring people together. However, drunkenness, gluttony, and exclusion of others are warned against. The Bible promotes balance – embracing celebrations while remaining holy, inclusive, and avoiding excess.