Does it matter to God if we are buried in a casket or cremated? “I was doing my own research and read somewhere that scripture teaches us to honor our bodies as it is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and burial is seen as a sign of respect, whereas cremation is a sign of disrespect for the human body and shows contempt for the person. How accurate is this information?
This is a good question, one that I have been asked many times. I want to first address 1 Corinthians 6:19. It says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
This is commonly one of those scriptures that people use wrong. What I mean is, it sounds good to use it, especially with something that applies to our bodies when people want to condemn some action. The problem with that is if you look at the context of this scripture, it has nothing to do with things like death or cremation. This scripture addresses moral sin. More specifically, it talks about the gravity of defiling the temple (which is our body) with sexual sin.
This brings up an interesting thought. Does that mean you can never use scripture for any purpose other than for what it specifically addresses? See, there are two main things that I believe scripture is for, correction and direction. Everything generally falls into one of those two categories. If we try and condemn with scripture what scripture doesn’t condemn, we get into a dangerous place. That place is known as religious bondage. (That would be a good Faith Fix in itself should someone care to ask.) We should not ever use scripture to attack or tear down what it wasn’t meant for and we should be very careful about doing so. That drives people away from God, not to Him.
Galatians 5:13 tells us, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Basically the understanding we get from the law of freedom (and we could talk so much about that too) is that if something isn’t spelled out in the Bible as wrong, is generally accepted among people, and our conscience can be ok doing it, we are free to do it. Now, to be careful, you need all three of those working together for something to be right.
When it comes to what we do with someone when they die, the Bible seems to address it basically like it does weddings; no specific instructions. It does seem that tradition was more in favor of burial but that may be more for superstitious reasons than any legitimate law. What we know is this and this we must remember, when God wants His people to do something specific, He always instructs very clearly in His Word. With that in mind, I can confidently say it comes down to personal preference. A simple and quick search of biblical instruction on burial yields almost no fruit.
For those who have come up with reasons why it is bad I would ask this; what if someone dies by fire? Will God not receive them? What about all the wonderful Christians who were martyred by being burned at the stake? Will God say, “I’m sorry, you can’t come in, you should have died another way!” Of course not, the thought is preposterous! The truth is, burial, like weddings, like a myriad of other things is more tradition based than it is anything else. Think of the process of embalming. One could wrongfully argue (yet using the same logic), “Well, the Bible says from dust you came and dust you return yet you’ve preserved the body and it can’t turn to dust so God doesn’t like it.” Embalming after all was developed by the ancient Egyptians and they weren’t exactly the model of Godly spirituality! Now, it is true that often burning a person upon death or even to death was either showing judgement or contempt for a person and therefore looked down upon. However, I fully believe that that is more about the attitude behind the action rather than the action itself.
Jesus addressed people who think in these ways like this: Matthew 23:24 “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” What He was saying is, religious people so focus on things that don’t matter that they forget about the things that do. They get distracted by little things while the big things go unnoticed. My pastor always said, “Don’t major on the minors!” Religious bondage, sometimes by well-intentioned people, is a tool of the devil to distract people from what really matters and to bring them into discouragement.
I want to add something here and I will say this applies equally to two main things we do in tradition, marrying and burying. People get under such great and unnecessary bondage by wrong thinking. I have seen people with long lists of requests for both. The problem is these requests usually have to be carried out by others who are already overburdened, and the focus of the requests are only flesh based anyway. If I have a long list of demands for either my marriage or my death, am independently wealthy, and pay to ensure that they happen, well then great. For everyone else, you may have to settle for what you get. I know that may sound harsh but I have seen people who are often unable, trying to “please” someone by doing things that simply don’t matter. To drive this point home, huge industries are built around these venues in response, making people rich at the expense of others. I have seen funeral directors (not all) try to upsell grieving widows with special vaults and expensive caskets, only to be buried in the ground and decay. They make a lot of money on such things and I assure you, the one going in them, doesn’t care even for a minute.
I am convinced that when we get to Heaven, if the one who passed is there, they will say to us, “You should have spent that money getting people saved!” If they are not there, they will certainly not be concerned with the type of wood used to bury their body! It does not truly honor people to make a big to do out of their passing, it only satisfies the flesh of those still present. I’m not saying we throw them in a ditch, I’m saying we don’t make the focus about what the focus should never be about. The best thing about funerals is they force living people to deal with the reality of eternity. The best way to honor those that have gone on is to ensure everyone has the chance to choose right before they themselves die. This is God’s greatest desire, and it should be ours as well.