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Do Birthday Celebrations Promote Selfishness?

My parents made a big deal of birthdays. They didn’t do anything elaborate or crazy, but each kid always felt like their birthday was their special day. “My day” even felt special in high school and college (I sometimes wondered if my mom contacted my friends and told them what to do).

But something changed after college. For whatever reason, there was a sudden realization that November 6th didn’t actually revolve around me. And that was a painful pill to swallow.

My birthday crisis wasn’t my parent’s fault. They simply did what most parents do—because they love their kids, they took the opportunity to show it (and I came up with the absurd idea that it was “my day” without their help). Nonetheless, after surviving the shocking reality that one day a year is not “mine,” I’ve begun to rethink this yearly occurrence called a “birthday.”

What’s the Point of Birthdays Anyway? 

The Bible doesn’t condone or condemn birthday celebrations. However, it’s fairly logical to celebrate each new year God gives us. In a sense, a birthday is a day to stop, reflect, and thank God for his kindness in someone’s life. We all have different ways we celebrate—but for the Christian, gratitude is a logical motivation behind a celebration.

Therefore, with such a clear and thoughtful rationale for celebrating, should we do anything but go “all out”?

The Temptation

Anyone who knows children, or is even remotely in tune with their own heart, knows we are by nature, selfish. Without redirecting our focus, the default position is to continually think of self. This becomes especially detrimental when we think too highly of ourselves, or we choose to put ourselves above others.

If we are not careful, birthday celebrations can feed into the human tendency towards selfishness Click To Tweet

Philippians 2:3-4 applies to birthdays as much as any other day — but consider how the other’s mindedness this passage speaks of isn’t always displayed (or encouraged) in the heart of the birthday kid (or adult).

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Verse 3 said we should do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit!  That means we should not even go about our “special day” with selfish ambition. Nor should we accidentally train our kids to do so.

Avoiding selfishness doesn’t rule out celebrating or having fun, or even making our kids feel special; but it does rule out the mentality that the day is “all about the birthday girl” (or boy). Because it’s not. Nor should it be.

The Birthday Grinch 

Despite what you may currently think, I am not the birthday grinch. I have learned to enjoy November 6th, even after realizing it doesn’t revolve around me! And I very much enjoy showering my kids with love on their birthday.

Yet there is a fine line we must walk. While we want our child to feel special, we shouldn’t encourage them to think every eye should be on them for the day. They should not come to believe they are entitled to “the best day ever.”  Even on a birthday, I want my kids to look not only to their own interest “but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4), regardless of the birthday plans.

Which inevitably begs the question: How do we do we do that?  I will give a few ideas in next week’s post: 5 Ways to Make Birthdays Special But Not Self-Centered 


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