Is It Idolatrous for Christians to Put Up a Christmas Tree?
Steve, I keep seeing posts on Facebook from Christians claiming that putting up a Christmas tree is a form of idolatry. I don’t understand. Is it idolatrous for Christians to decorate a tree at Christmas? — Rob
I’ve watched with much dismay, each year, as more and more people fall for the spectacularly ridiculous notion that putting up a Christmas tree represents some kind of gross pagan idolatry against our heavenly Father.
So I’m just going to answer the question flat out, and afterwards we’ll discuss it, Biblically:
- Yes, it is idolatrous, if you’re worshiping the tree as a god.
- No, it’s not idolatrous, if you’re using the tree to represent everlasting life from our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.
You see, whether or not putting up a tree is idolatrous, depends upon what the tree means to you.
For example, if you’re a Baal worshipper, and you’re putting up that tree in homage to Baal, then yes, that tree would be idolatrous in our heavenly Father’s eyes because Baal is not God the Father. Baal is just an empty substitute for God the Father.
But if you appreciate the fact that God Himself says “I am like a green fir tree; from Me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14:8), then to you that Christmas tree symbolizes eternal life from our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ.
As it’s written of this “tree”:
Hos 14:8 Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
In this verse, God is pleased to hear Ephraim (put for the northern 10 tribes of Israel) say he’s giving up his idols. God then steps in and says, “I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.”
Dr. Bullinger points out, in his sidenotes to the Companion Bible, that the phrase “I am like a green fir tree” should read, in proper context, “I, like a green cypress [will overshadow him].”
In other words, in return for Ephraim giving up his idols and turning back to the Lord, God becomes the green fir tree that provides both shade and protection to His People Israel.
And as Finis Dake, author of the Dake Annotated Reference Bible points out in his Bible sidenotes regarding the passage “I am like a green fir tree”:
This demonstrates that God will be three things to Israel:
- An observer—manifesting providence
- A green fir tree—giving protection
- A fruit tree—providing all things
In other words, God is saying to His People Israel “I’m the only ‘tree’ you’ll ever need. I’m the eternal tree of life.”
So, if God calls Himself a green fir tree, and if we set up a green fir tree on Christmas to represent Him and His great Providence and Protection, how is that idolatrous?
After all, we’re not worshipping a false God. Indeed, the whole point of Christmas, for Christians, is…Jesus Christ…the Tree of Life. Right?
And by the way, in New Testament times Jesus Christ later reaffirmed that He, indeed, is that “green tree” referred to in Hosea 14:8.
Luk 23:31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
In other words, He essentially stated to the crowds of people following Him up that hill at Golgotha to be crucified, “If they’ll crucify the author of eternal life – the very tree of life which gives life to all men — then be careful of what they’re going to do to you, later.”
The Tree of Life
And what about the Biblical “tree of life” first introduced to us in Genesis chapter 2, and later reiterated three times in the book of Revelation?
Is that not representative of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? And if He tells us He’s symbolized by a tree, why is putting up a tree at Christmas, in representation of Him, and in love of what He’s done for us, and in honor of His conception, even the slightest bit idolatrous?
Think about it. It’s not in the least bit idolatrous. As it’s written, He is that tree that brings eternal life to those who love and honor Him:
Gen 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Rev 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Rev 22:2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
So the Christmas tree represents the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ, and all that He does for us. This should be no surprise to a well-studied Christian, as the Bible refers to us, symbolically, as trees, as well. As it’s written:
Jer 17:7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
Jer 17:8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
In other words, those who trust and hope in the Lord are to become little “trees of life” spreading the Gospel of the Tree of Life. As it’s further written:
Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
So exactly what’s so “pagan” about symbolizing either man, or God, as trees, when God Himself does so, in His very Word?
You see, just because some pagan chopped down a tree and inlaid gold and silver into the bare trunk and made an idol out of it, doesn’t mean you can’t honor your Lord and Savior, symbolically, with the very “tree” the Lord says represents Him – the evergreen tree.
After all, who are you going to believe? The Lord’s Word. Or some sensationalistic article posted to the internet, and designed to suck the joy out of the Christmas season by making Christians think they’re committing a pagan act by honoring their Lord?
Look, if our heavenly Father says “I am like a green fir tree”…and if Christ says He is that “green tree” the rest of the world hates…and if we, too, are symbolized as “trees of life” for our faith in Jesus Christ and our work on His behalf…and if the Bible tells us Christ Jesus is the eternal “tree of life”…then that’s enough for me.
All of the way back to the Garden of Eden, and all of the way forward to the book of Revelation, Christ is symbolized as the “tree of life.” That means it’s always been His symbol, from alpha to omega (beginning to end).
So what if some pagan – in the interim — copied the symbology, and applied it to the worship of their lord? I’m not giving an inch of my joy in the Lord over to some dumbass pagan at this season of our precious Lord’s conception. They’re not taking it from me.
Just as Satan imitates Christ, so these pagans put up their own symbols of their false gods, in imitation of Christ. But that idolatry is their problem, not ours.
Did the Pagans Really Put Up Christmas Trees?
But did the ancient pagans really erect anything we could consider the equivalent to our Christmas trees? Well, once again, let’s take a look at what the Bible actually says, in proper context.
Here are the Scriptures most people use to justify the idea that putting up a Christmas tree is idolatrous:
Jer 10:1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
Jer 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
Jer 10:3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
Jer 10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
Christians will often say “That right there is the perfect description of decking out a Christmas tree. First, you cut the tree down from the forest with an axe. Then you deck it out with those silver and gold balls that hang from the tree branches, then you nail it into a stand so it can’t fall over.”
But is that what it’s really talking about in those verses? Is that the proper context?
Let’s dig a little deeper and see what some of the remaining verses in this same chapter tell us, so we can see, in proper context, what these verses are actually talking about.
As you’ll see, this is not about decorating a Christmas tree. It’s about chopping a tree down, inlaying its bare trunk with gold and silver, and making an idol (a false god) out of that tree trunk. As it’s written:
Jer 10:5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
The “they” in this verse are the tree trunks that have been chopped down to be turned into idols. These tree trunks are then shaped into an upright shape much like a palm tree – i.e., phallic symbols (i.e., shapes similar in appearance to an erect male organ) representing fertility and abundance.
Not quite what a Christian would have in mind for Christmas, right? So our heavenly Father tells us not to fear (i.e., revere) these stupid idols, because they’re just tree trunks. They’re just inanimate objects with no power of their own.
This is quite different from what Christians do at Christmas. Christians don’t worship trees. But they honor the Lord by symbolizing Him as the Bible says, i.e., “I am like a green fir tree.”
Jer 10:6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
Here, Jeremiah responds to the Lord’s revelations in the previous verse, by praising Him as the true God whose name is “great in might” (in contrast to the false idol tree trunk that has no power or might of its own).
Jer 10:7 Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.
The phrase “for to thee doth it appertain” means the worship and respect being given to that tree trunk actually belongs to the Lord God. In other words, it’s being stolen from Him, and given to a wooden phallic symbol tree trunk representing a false god.
In context, does this have anything to do with putting up a Christmas tree in symbolic honor of the Lord and all He’s done for us? No.
Pagan’s imitate. Our Lord tells us from Genesis forward that He’s the “tree of life.” So the pagans would imitate this, applying the name of their own gods to bare tree trunks shaped like a penis and inlaid with gold and silver. But is that what Christians are doing at Christmas? Absolutely not.
Jer 10:8 But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.
The worshipers of this tree trunk (i.e., stock) are stupid, because they can’t see that the stock is incapable of giving them doctrine to live by. It’s not really a god, at all, but instead, just a hunk of wood.
By contrast, our heavenly Father – symbolized by that green fir tree, that great and abiding tree of life – is the real deal. When we put up a Christmas tree, that’s Who we’re symbolizing and that’s Who we’re honoring. Not some phallic symbol carved out of a hunk of wood and inlaid with gold and silver and worshiped all year long as a ‘god’.
Jer 10:9 Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
People use their skills to create their own gods. But it does them no good, because there’s only one true God, and only He deserves our honor, respect and worship.
Jer 10:10 But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
Our heavenly Father is the true and eternal tree of life. He’s the real deal. He’s the eternal king. And those who worship false idols – those who make up their own gods in imitation of the Lord — are ultimately going to tremble at His presence.
Jer 10:11 Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.
At Christ’s Second Advent, our heavenly Father is going to rid this world of its idolatry. Satan and his fallen angels who come to this earth masquerading as “gods” are going to perish here. Psalm 82 reiterates this. So does Revelation.
Jer 10:12 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.
Jer 10:13 When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.
Our God, that eternal tree of life from the very beginning and forever, created this world, and the heavens, and is in charge of both. He’s the Creator God. He’s the one who gets things done. Worship Him alone. None of the other powers of the heavens created you or any part of this world. Nor can they sustain your life, or provide eternal life.
Jer 10:14 Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.
Jer 10:15 They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.
Man is stupid. He rejects worship of the true tree of life. But then he sets up a tree trunk idol to worship, instead, which ultimately represents the antichrist. This will come to a screeching halt at Christ’s Second Advent.
Jer 10:16 The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.
True Israel, in Christ, knows better than to worship idols. They know the difference between the tree of life, and the false idols.
The bottom line is that, in proper context, these verses are not about setting up a Christmas tree in honor of the tree of life. They’re about cutting a stump into the shape of an erect male organ, inlaying it with gold and silver, and literally worshipping it as “god.”
You don’t worship your Christmas tree, nor consider it to be a “god.” You don’t pray to it. You don’t bow down to it. You simply use it to symbolize the Lord’s presence in your home and family life.
And you do so at the specific time of the year (i.e., conception time) that our heavenly Father sent the tree of life to this earth, in a tent of flesh, to pay the price for our sins and to pave the way for each of us back into Father’s eternal household.
Don’t let anyone rob you of that.
Regards in Christ,
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