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Is it wrong to have pictures of Jesus?

I have several pictures of Jesus in my house, all of which have been passed down from my grandparents. My favorite is one where Jesus is guiding a sailor on the open sea. Do you have any pictures like this? Or maybe a crucifix with a small figure of Jesus upon it? Is it wrong to have these kinds of things in our homes? Are pictures of Jesus or crucifixes considered idols?

The Bible is clear that we are not to make idols for ourselves (Exodus 20:4). An idol is anything that we give worship to or count as more important than God. In the Old Testament, we find Moses in the mountains, witnessing God write the Ten Commandments in stone—and taking a bit longer than the Israelites expected. Since they didn't know where Moses was, they asked his brother, Aaron, if they could have something to worship. Aaron let them make a calf out of gold, built an altar, and they made sacrifices, danced, and feasted as if this were their god. As you might guess, this did not end well for the Israelites. (See Exodus 32 for the drama.)

Idols are wrong because they turn our focus away from God and cause us to sin against Him as we put other things above Him in priority. But does having pictures of Jesus constitute as an idol?

Can a picture of Jesus become an idol?

Owning or displaying an image of any kind that depicts the person of Jesus is not inherently wrong or sinful. A piece of art is not automatically an idol. What would make pictures or artifacts an idol is if we chose to direct worship, prayers, or other feelings of adoration toward them. Inanimate objects should not be worshiped. They have no power and are merely decorative objects.

That said, pictures of Jesus can be used to remind us to focus on Him, pray to Him, praise Him, and remind us of the sacrifices He made for us. If used in this way, it isn't wrong to have images of Jesus.

What we need to remember is that the picture or image itself is not Jesus. The picture will not answer our prayers and has no way to receive worship. No matter how beautiful an image of Jesus is, it doesn't even compare with how beautiful and glorious Jesus truly is.

Are pictures of Jesus accurate?

The Bible gives very little indication of what Jesus looked like, though the white-skinned, blue-eyed Jesus is extremely unlikely to be accurate. The closest thing Scripture provides is a note in Isaiah 53:2b, wherein the coming Savior is described as being quite ordinary in appearance: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him." As an ordinary-looking person, Jesus would have the appearance of any other ethnic Jewish man of the time.

The prophet Isaiah also says that "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem" (Isaiah 53:3). The New Testament writers didn’t see it crucial to include Jesus’ physical appearance because it just didn't matter.

What does matter is that Jesus is God in the flesh (Colossians 2:9), and He is the only one deserving of our worship. What the New Testament writers go on and on about is Jesus' character! Our imagination and attention is captured by descriptions of Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:32-33); the water of life (John 4:14); the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); the Light of the world (John 1:5); our Good Shepherd (John 10:11-4); the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15); full of grace and truth (John 1:14); the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2); and ultimately our wonderful Savior and Lord, who died for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and given eternal life (John 3:16). No image or figure of Jesus can truly capture the depth and beauty our great and glorious God.

If you want to be reminded of Jesus, look at the world outside! God's creation reveals Jesus’ glory to us. Psalm 19:1-2 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge." No, we won't find Jesus standing outside our door, but we don't need Him to appear to have faith in Him. Jesus was talking about US when He said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). If you have images of Jesus you enjoy as reminders of Him, that's totally OK. But remember that the real power is in God Himself—not an inanimate object.

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TL;DR

The Bible is clear that we are not to have idols (Exodus 20:4) as they lead us away from God and negatively impact our relationship with Him. Owning or displaying a picture of Jesus is not inherently wrong as long as you are not worshipping it. There is no power in inanimate objects, and they cannot receive our worship. A picture of Jesus can still be a reminder to focus on Him, pray to Him, and praise Him. But we don't need to see Him to have faith in Him. Jesus was talking about US when He said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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