December 17, 2006

Manger Scenes?

Read the Second Commandment carefully...

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. Exodus 20.4-6

Now an honest question...

Is it biblical for us to have nativity scenes in our homes...seeing as how they seem to contain graven images of Jesus? I realizie we are not worshipping them...but I am honestly wrestling with whether we should even have them.

Not grinding an axe. We currently have 3 sets in our living room! Just wondering if anyone has thought through this more than me and can give some insight as to what the Bible is really saying here.

Same question could be asked of pictures of Jesus, or movies on Jesus.

Leave a comment or email me.


am said...
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am said...

It is not a black and white issue as far as I see it...
Having manger scenes does not violate the commandment if you do not worship it (them). It is not an idol unless it recieves honor/worship from you. This is where me must attempt to evaluate our motives and our hearts for any idol worship.
"You shall not worship them or serve them" offers, I believe, a clarifier as it were. The fact is the manger scenes are probably the least of the idols that are clammoring for worship within us.
As far as the pics and movies with Jesus...
Personally I feel it better not to have them at all b/c they are so utterly inadequate depictions of Him. Thus, altering our already too small views of Him.
I haven't dealt super carefully with the issue, but have been faced with it and this short blurb is my condensed solution, sort of.

Larry Sowders said...

If we take the first and second commandment together (the second, logically following the first), then the idols of the second commandment are the "no other gods" of the first commandment. As followers of the true God, we are not to worship other gods and we are not to make any idols of any kind. The second commandment seems to elaborate and expand the first commandment. So we are to have no other gods and make no idols of other gods. Furthermore, we are to avoid making images that identify the LORD God with any created thing. Images or likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath can do nothing but diminish the Creator.

This is how I understand the second commandment. I do not believe that manger scenes at Christmas time fall into this category unless we use them as objects of worship. If we give objects of the nativity the honor due only to Christ Himself then we would be guilty of violating the second commandment.

ben said...

The previous comments about not worshiping the manger seem to be logical but when I read your post I thought of Joshua 4:1-7. This is where they picked up stones, memorial stones, out of the river to remember what God had done for them. When I look at our manger, I don't quite remember the individual engraved faces but just focus on the event of Christ's birth, which also triggers his death on the cross. For us it's a small memorial stone in our house, not an idol.

Kurt Strassner said...


I tend to agree with your suggestion...but what is the difference between pictures/movies and mager scenes as far as inadequately depicting Christ.

And could the initial injunction against making the images in the first place simply be a safeguard against ever being tempted to go the next step and worship them?

For any who are interested, John Murray has written on this issue here: