Does Jeremiah 10:3, 4 refer to Christmas trees?
“Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord,
“Do not learn the way of the nations,
And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens
Although the nations are terrified by them;
For the customs of the peoples are delusion;
Because it is wood cut from the forest,
The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool.
“They decorate it with silver and with gold;
They fasten it with nails and with hammers
So that it will not totter.
“Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they,
And they cannot speak;
They must be carried,
Because they cannot walk!
Do not fear them,
For they can do no harm,
Nor can they do any good.”
– Jeremiah 10:1 – 5 (New American Standard Bible)
In this text the prophet Jeremiah is warning the nation of Israel two important things:
- First, they are not to copy the idolatry of the nations around them. The custom was to worship in clumps of trees (Asherah) in which a goddess of fertility was venerated. She was often represented by a branch or limb from a tree. She would be brought home and decorated, made up to look as feminine and sensual as possible. Israel was to avoid such pagan behavior.
- Second, they were not to be frightened by such idols. They had no power, no influence. They could not do anyone harm, and they could not do anyone anything good. They were empty, impotent and unnecessary. It was foolish to worship them and foolish to fear them.
These verses could not refer specifically to a Christmas tree, since that would have no meaning for the people of Israel. The whole idea of “Christmas” was centuries in the future. Could it be applied to Christmas trees? Only if people are actually worshiping the trees they set up.
If people are ascribing supernatural power to their Christmas trees, then they are wrong. If they worship their Christmas trees, or fear the “power” of the Christmas tree, then, they are sinning. But, seriously, who puts up a tree during the holidays with any sense that it is a god of some sort? It is a tradition, nothing more or less. It is only wrong when we begin to treat the Christmas tree as a god of some kind.