Jump Start # 2117
Hebrews 9:27 “And inasmuch as it is appointed for me to die once and after this comes judgment.”
Our Jump Start yesterday dealt with the topic of suicide. That prompted one of our readers to ask me about cremation. That’s not typically a “devotional” topic, but it is of interest to many folks, so I thought I would say something about it. Before I do, let me add, I am receiving many questions from our readers. I love that. Because I do not address your question in a Jump Start does not mean the question was not important. I have to be in the mood to write about what I do. Some questions fit better in a Bible class than this format. So, don’t feel bad if I do not address what you ask me about. Some questions are saved for a dry spell in my writing.
What about cremation? The question folks have about this is not about finances, or personal preferences, but Biblically. Is it wrong to be cremated? I have a son in the funeral industry. He tells me that last year cremations out paced traditional funerals. We understand the popularity of something doesn’t determine it’s rightness with the Lord.
I recently watched a video of a preacher explaining why cremation was wrong. Our bodies are the temple of God and what we do matters.
So, here are some thoughts:
First, we are to return to dust. God told Adam, and I believe all the creation following him, you will return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return. That is talking about our bodies. Our bodies are destined to return to dust. What will be resurrected, will be a glorified state. Here where I live, in the Ohio Valley, there once were thousands of native Americans, or Indians. What happened to that Indian, a thousand years ago that fell and died in the woods and was never buried. He returned to dust. If we knew exactly where the spot was and dug, I doubt there would be anything. He’s returned to the earth.
Now, here is a thought about cremation. The process of cremation takes us to dust faster than anything else. The traditional burial process today, involves pumping embalming fluid into the body, which is placed in an airtight casket and buried in a waterproof vault. It will take a long, long time for that body to return to dust. Case in point, is the body of President Abraham Lincoln. In 1901, 36 years after his burial, his casket was moved and secured. A small hole was cut in the casket. Twenty-three people looked and saw the body of the President. They were amazed at how well the body looked. His eyebrows were gone, but his face, the wart on his face, his beard, it was all very recognizable. So, if we are supposed to return to dust, it seems cremation gets us there faster.
Second, the N.T. doesn’t really say much about how to be buried. Stephen was buried. How and where we do not know. James, Antipas, Ananias, Sapphira, deaths we read about in the N.T., we are not told how they were buried. Jesus was buried in what we would consider a cave today. His body was wrapped in cloths. He was not embalmed. He was buried immediately after He died. Joseph was embalmed. Hundreds of years later, his bones were buried in the promise land. The American Indian put their dead on platforms raised above the ground. The Navy buries their dead at sea. Am I to be embalmed? Do I have to have a vault for the casket to be placed in? Many of those things are dictated by state laws and the rules of the cemetery. Can I be buried in a mausoleum building above the ground or do I have to be buried in the earth? Is it better to have a wood casket than a metal casket, since I am to return to dust? I know some are bothered that pagans burned their dead. Doing the same does not mean I have left the Lord and have embraced what pagans do. I do other things that pagans do, such as eating meat, but that does not mean I have given up on the Lord, nor am I endorsing paganism.
Third, if cremation is wrong, who is it that sins and when does that sin take place? Is it the person who wishes for that? Is it the family that allowed that? Is it the funeral director who arranged for it? Is it the guy working at the funeral home who pushes the buttons and actually cremates the body? Who sinned? Now, there is another thought. Let’s say I tell my family that I want to be cremated. It’s my choice. Have I sinned even though the action hasn’t taken place? Now, at my death, lets say my family carries out my wishes and I am cremated. If cremation is wrong, when did the sin take place? After my death! So, is it possible, once the soul has left the body to sin? Can I sin after my death? These are thoughts that most of us haven’t put much time into. The emphasis of the N.T. is doing what we are doing here and now, and living righteously while we are alive.
Fourth, often cremation is thought to disrespect the body that God has given to us. Corinthians is sited as glorifying God in your body. It seems once I am dead, I no longer have control of that. Goliath’s head was cut off. Was that wrong for David to do that? Jonathan was hung up on a wall by the Philistines. The Corinthian passage is written in the context of sexual sins. The glorifying of the body was made by righteous choices of the person living. It seems a stretch to apply this to a body that is dead and the soul has departed.
So, bottom line, is cremation wrong? Wrong, meaning sinful. I would say no, it’s not sinful. That’s my thinking. You may not conclude the same with me. Prayer and study ought to precede this decision. Do not be critical of others who disagree with your decision. This is one thing that a person cannot change. Once the body has been cremated, there is no going back. A person can’t “repent” and do differently.
Finally, our bodies have served us to house our souls. Our bodies wear out with age. The outer man decays, Paul says. Our bodies are not eternal. We will not be raised needing glasses, hearing aides, artificial hips and false teeth. We will be raised in a glorious state. The focus of our attention is not our funeral and burial but our resurrection and eternity with the Lord. If one is convinced that traditional, in the ground, burials are the only way that is right, then they should follow their convictions and conscience. One should not make this decision simply because one way is cheaper than another way.
And, our readers might ask, what will happen to me? I’ve told several that I want to be stuffed and placed at the doorway of the church building with Jump Start books in my hand. That won’t happen. These decisions are private and personal and if a person has a choice, they need to be told to the family and even written out.
I don’t know if this answers any questions. If it generates discussions, especially within the family, that is a good thing. Remember, something is only sinful if it is wrong according to God. My dislike of something does not mean that it is sinful. Our bodies are a marvelous creation of God. We come in all sizes and colors. We are made by God. We need to be thankful and count the blessings of health, mind and strength.