Is it okay to participate in some elements of popular religious holidays? Or are there more serious consequences to disobeying God’s laws?
“I wear green for St. Patrick’s day because it’s a fun custom, it doesn’t really mean anything…”
“I join in New Year’s celebrations because my friends would think I’m a party pooper if I don’t…”
“I give gifts to my relatives on Christmas because I don’t want to ruin the day for the kids, but I don’t keep any of the pagan traditions…”
After all… it’s the little things that count, right?
It doesn’t really mean anything… does it?
Popular holidays can seem innocuous, and their accompanying traditions about as dangerous as a cartoon of the Easter Bunny. But is there a point at which a tradition becomes so separated from its religious origins that it becomes harmless? Harmless enough that we who know about God’s true way of life and observances can embrace it?
The short answer is, “no.”
St. Patrick’s Day is a popular Catholic holiday that has seemingly taken on pan-religious, even secular status. People think of rivers dyed with green pigment (most famously in Chicago for Americans), pipe-bands, four-leaf clovers for luck, and Irish step-dancing performances rather than the Catholification of a famous, faithful man of centuries past who served the people of Ireland. For a better understanding of who Patrick really was, please read “The Patrick You Didn’t Know .”
Irish pipe-bands and step-dancing certainly aren’t inherently evil, and most of us aren’t talented enough to be worried about doing either on any day, let alone St. Patrick’s Day. But what about wearing green or images of four-leaf clovers for luck?
The same question rises for any religious holiday other than the Holy Days set apart in the Bible. Can we play with fire and not burn our fingers?
No “half-way” obedience
We can’t dabble in other religious traditions and still be faithful to God. There are many reasons why this is so.
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion [close association] has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial [Satan]? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Corinthians:6:14-16, NKJV, this and following verses, emphasis added).
Satan the Devil is an angelic being who rejected God and chose to actively fight against God. He is a created being, who wants to destroy his Creator. Therefore, any religious tradition that is apart from God’s way is influenced to some extent by the Devil. Thus, if we participate in those traditions, we are participating in Satan’s rebellion against God.
On a more practical level, when we sincerely wish to follow God, but still don’t want to make waves with family or friends over non-biblical religious holidays like Christmas, Easter or Halloween and continue to dabble in those days, we’re watering down the validity of God’s truth by saying that we, as humans, have the authority to make it okay to do a little of both.
“And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word,” (1 Kings:18:21)
As a nation in the Middle East, the ancient Israelites consistently struggled with faithful obedience from the time of their beginnings almost 3,800 years ago.
During the Exodus, God very carefully explained the laws, roles and rules that Israel was to follow. He outlined the foundational principles of life in the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai—these were laws that were always and will always be in effect for everyone, Israelite or not. He also gave Israel the sacrificial laws that would direct religious observance in Israel until Jesus Christ’s first coming and sacrificial death became the fulfillment of the imagery of those ceremonial laws. Also, God rendered statutes and judgments that were to influence Israel and the world for centuries.
However, as can be seen in the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Israel never managed to stay consistently faithful to the true worship of God. By the time of the two main captivities of Israelites (the 10 northern tribes constituting the House of Israel captured by the Assyrians in 720 B.C. and the 2 southern tribes making up the House of Judah deported by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.) both parts of Israel had almost continuously mixed the true religion with false, pagan worship that was influenced by Satan.
God chastised them for being unfaithful and rebellious. They had mixed the truth with lies and God allowed them to deal with the fearsome consequences of those actions when he removed His protection from them.
But what about us?
Why is it so important to stay faithful to God, even in the small details?
It’s important for the same reason that a few small bad habits can grow into a problematic lifestyle. Obedience is akin to training muscles. If you strength train regularly, you benefit from the momentum of your training and you are more likely to continue. Likewise, when you obey God in the small details on a daily basis, then when a challenge to your faith comes you have the benefit of positive momentum to carry you through with God’s help and guidance.
“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much,” (Luke:16:10). Our faithfulness to the small things in this life is character training for our roles in the coming Kingdom of God, as resurrected God-beings.
If you find yourself in a habit of sitting on the fence between the Holy Days and non-biblical, religious holidays, then spend time with God, repent, and set a new course that dislodges the influence of those holidays.
It isn’t always easy, but we’re not obeying God just for accolades now, we’re in this for eternity in the family of God. Let the seriousness of that ultimate goal give purpose and drive to our desire to be faithful to God in all things.
Remember, it’s the little things that count!