Mother’s Day is a popular holiday celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day set aside to honor mothers and motherhood. While the intentions behind Mother’s Day are good, some Christians wonder if it is an appropriate holiday for believers to observe. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue. Looking at what the Bible says can help Christians decide if celebrating Mother’s Day is right for them.
The Origins of Mother’s Day
The modern Mother’s Day holiday originated in the early 20th century in America. A woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial service in 1907 for her own mother, who had been a peace activist during the Civil War. Jarvis began campaigning for a national Mother’s Day to honor all mothers. Her efforts paid off when, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
The holiday became very commercialized over time, with the giving of flowers, cards, and gifts. Florists, card companies, and other retailers promoted Mother’s Day as a way to boost sales. Although Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a time for personal expression of thanks to mothers, instead it evolved into more of a commercial holiday across America.
Honoring Mothers is Biblical
The Bible speaks favorably of honoring mothers. Passages like Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:2 instruct children to honor their fathers and mothers. Proverbs 1:8 says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” Proverbs 31 describes the “excellent wife” who cares for her household dutifully. These verses promote honoring and appreciating mothers and mother figures.
The Bible gives accounts of righteous women and mothers who parented major figures in biblical history, like Jochebed, the mother of Moses (Exodus 2); Hannah, the mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 1-2); and Eunice, the mother of Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). Their motherly influence helped shape these leaders. The Bible esteems motherhood as something honorable and good.
So on the surface, setting aside a day to honor mothers and motherhood aligns with biblical values. The Bible encourages Christians to show gratitude and respect to their mothers. However, some key factors should be considered regarding the actual Mother’s Day holiday.
Mother’s Day Can Promote Idolatry of Mothers
While it’s good to honor mothers, celebrating Mother’s Day also comes with some risks. The biggest risk is idolizing motherhood. Placing being a mom on a pedestal can lead to mothers expecting perfect treatment at all times. It can also lead to others feeling resentment when their own mothers fail to meet those perfect ideals.
The Bible warns against such idolatry. Only God alone deserves our worship and highest devotion. Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Is it possible that Mother’s Day places motherhood in the wrong position of glory that should be reserved for God?
Commercialism and Materialism
Another issue is the rampant commercialism of Mother’s Day. An ideal celebration would honor mothers with heartfelt words, acts of service, quality time, handmade gifts, or simply telling them “I love you.” But often what happens instead is expensive store-bought cards and gifts. Restaurants promote overpriced brunch specials. Flower shops drastically increase flower prices. It becomes more about spending money than true sentiment.
The Bible warns against commercialism and materialism interfering with worship. Jesus cleared the money changers from the temple courts saying “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13). Christians should be careful not to let the commercialism of Mother’s Day detract from honoring motherhood.
Elevating Biological Mothers Above Spiritual Mothers
Additionally, Mother’s Day focuses exclusively on biological mothers. But the Bible teaches spiritual motherhood too. Paul told the Thessalonians “We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). He was describing spiritual nurturing, like a mother cares for a newborn. Other women served mothering roles for Timothy, like his grandmother Lois and Eunice, who spiritually trained him (2 Timothy 1:5). We shouldn’t elevate biological mothers over spiritual mothers.
Mother’s Day Can Be Painful for Some
For those who had difficult or absent mothers, Mother’s Day celebrations can feel alienating or hurtful. Infertile women can experience envy and sadness from the idealized motherhood portrayed in Mother’s Day marketing. Others lost their mothers and find the holiday reopen old wounds. Christians should be sensitive to those hurt by Mother’s Day rather than making blanket assumptions it’s a happy day for all.
Every Day Should Honor Godly Character
Rather than one day a year, the Bible advises honoring godly virtues every day. Micah 6:8 says God requires us “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Christians should honor godly character daily, not just through holidays. Does Mother’s Day distract from an ongoing walk of faith?
Potential for Hypocrisy
Some women feel resentment on Mother’s Day if their families don’t show honor the rest of the year. The Bible warns against hypocrisy and lip service. Isaiah 29:13 says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” If Christians only honor mothers one Sunday a year, but not daily, that’s hypocritical.
Historical Association with Goddesses
In ancient times, mother goddess worship involved fertility rituals. The Bible prohibits involvement in pagan rituals. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 says: “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”
Since Mother’s Day has origins with “mother goddesses,” some Christians view celebrating it as risky, while others see it as harmless if God alone is honored now. This is a matter of personal conscience.
Adding Religious Holidays Not in the Bible
Some Christians believe adding holidays not mentioned in the Bible could be a form of legalism. Colossians 2:16 says: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” So there is freedom whether to observe extra holidays, and neither choice should be condemned.
Potential for Distraction from God
Holidays like Mother’s Day can either remind us of biblical values or become a distraction from God. Christians disagree on which it is. Paul writes in Romans 14:5-6, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” This underscores the individual choice involved.
Tension Between Cultural Adaptation and Conformity
New Testament believers faced a dilemma of whether to conform to culture or avoid worldly influences that could corrupt their faith. The same dilemma exists today regarding holidays like Mother’s Day. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” But also, 1 Corinthians 9:22 says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” It’s a continual balance.
Potential for Guilt and Obligation
Mother’s Day can bring unwelcome feelings of guilt or obligation in relationships lacking warmth or closeness. The Bible warns against inducing guilt in others. Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” If Mother’s Day stirs up familial guilt, it could hinder rather than nurture those relationships.
Exalting One Form of Motherhood Over Others
Focusing exclusively on biological mothers diminishes other family roles like step-mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers raising grandchildren, and the like. But Proverbs 31:28 offers praise for all kinds of noble mothering: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” The Bible encourages honoring various maternal roles, whereas Mother’s Day promotes just one form.
Glorifying Femininity While Marginalizing Masculinity
Mother’s Day concentrates exclusively on honoring femininity and motherhood. But the Bible calls men and women equally important and valued in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.” Christians should be careful not to glorify femininity at the cost of marginalizing masculinity.
Historical Ties to Feminist and Pacifist Movements
The earliest Mother’s Day advocates in the 19th and early 20th centuries were tied to feminist and pacifist causes. Jarvis rejected her version being hijacked for commercial purposes. She criticized the selling of Mother’s Day flowers, cards, and candies as profiteering. Not all Christians would feel comfortable knowing Mother’s Day’s origins aligned with secular social causes.
Unbalanced Elevation of Motherhood Over Other Callings
Singling out motherhood for an annual holiday places it on a pedestal above other noble callings. But the Bible esteems vocations like ministry, charity, craftsmanship, and more. 1 Corinthians 7:7 says, “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” Mother’s Day promotes just one calling among many.
Decision is a Matter of Personal Conviction
This lengthy analysis shows that reasonable Christians can disagree in good faith on either side of celebrating Mother’s Day. There are risks both to observing it and avoiding it. Each believer must decide before God based on their conscience and convictions if Mother’s Day is honoring or distracting in their context.
Romans 14:5 offers this concluding guidance: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” The most important thing is following personal convictions, rather than judging others either way.