What Does The Bible Say About Burning Incense?
A lot of cultures have used incense for ages across the world. In Indian, Chinese, Greek, and Egyptian cultures, it is very prevalent. The word 'incense' originates from the Latin term 'incendere,' which further means 'to burn.'
Incense has long been associated with spirituality and religion. In India, we can trace back the incense usage to as early as 3600 BC. It became popular in China in 2000 B.C. In Greek rituals, too, incense has been an important part. According to Greek beliefs, burning incense established a medium of communication with the gods.
When we are talking about the spiritual importance of incense, a substantial question lies about how different religions talk about burning incense. Incense is very significant when it comes to Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam also permits incense burning and has related significance. Many cultures believe that incense helps send the prayers directly to the spirit.
But, what does the Bible say about it? Is it a Sin to burn incense, or can Christians burn incense too? We have quoted a number of citations to verses of the Bible to prove the answer.
Continue reading to know all about it!
Can Christians Burn Incense?
Throughout history, incense has been used in the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and in some Anglican Churches as well. According to the "The United Methodist Book of Worship," Evening Praise demands incense usage. The smoke that comes from burning incense is considered to be the "prayer of the faithful rising to heaven." It had been symbolized in the 141st Psalm.
The LORD tells Moses about incense composition in chapter 30 of Exodus (Exodus 30:34 -37). According to the "Revelation of John," one can compare burning incense to "prayers" and "saints of heaven." It is one of the essential sources of references to incense in the Bible.
Is It a Sin to Burn Incense?
These days, most Christian denominations do not necessarily believe in using incense. Only Roman Catholics still prefer burning incense in various rituals.
According to Malachi 1:11, incense should not be burnt as an offering to false gods. One can offer incense only to the true God. For most Christians, using incense is a matter of conviction and not compulsion.
In the Holy Bible, there are certain restrictions for burning incense. Only a High Priest could burn incense in the Altar of Incense (Exodus 30) in the "Holy Place of Tabernacle." One could not burn any unauthorised incense.
The Priest can burn incense only in the morning and in the evening at the Altar of Incense (Exodus 30:7-8). One can find a lot of references in the Holy Bible about burning incense.
Significance of Burning Incense in the Bible:
Burning incense has been symbolised in the Bible. In the Old Testament, it was considered that incense was related to "a greater reality."
Psalm 141:2 says, "Let my prayer be accepted as sweet-smelling incense in your presence. Let the lifting up of my hands in prayer be accepted as an evening sacrifice". One might not find a literal mention of incense in the Bible, but the symbolisms are very evident.
In fact, a follower brought Frankincense as one of the gifts for Jesus, which is symbolised in the "Holy Priesthood of Jesus." The significance of burning incense is quite important in Christianity.
Many verses in the Bible have mentioned the usage of incense. Some of these Biblical verses include Luke 1:10, Isaiah 66:2, Ephesians 5:1-2, Psalm 51:16-17, and a lot more. Quite a few assorted references of incense are present in the New Testament.
According to Deuteronomy 33:10, "They Shall Teach Your Ordinances To Jacob, And Your Law To Israel. They shall put incense before you, and whole burnt offerings on your altar."
The "Book of Deuteronomy" is a part of the Old Testament. Most references to incense are present in the Old Testament compared to the New Testament. Hence, burning incense is more common amongst the Jews as compared to the Christians.
In Catholicism, incense is very common even during funeral Masses.
P.S: Unlike Catholic Churches, Evangelical Churches avoid burning incense, apparently because of its association with sacrifices.
How to Pray with Incense Sticks
The Christians (mostly Catholics) use incense in a lot of events. One can burn the incense at the Holy Communion, at Solemn Vespers, or funerals, and a lot of other celebrations of the Church.
In some Churches, incense is burnt at every event. Incense is also used in the Paschal Candle. Frankincense is the most common ingredient that Catholics use, and there have been a lot of references to burning Frankincense in the Bible.
Some Churches prefer Myrrh too. Many Christian denominations use incense not for religious purposes but as an accompaniment to the services. Thus, there might not be a hard and fast rule regarding praying with incense sticks in Christianity.
Incense Burning: Lifestyle Practice in Modern Days
There is no harm in burning incense in Christianity. Instead, it is more about the belief system of an individual. Most Catholics burn incense during festivals, celebrations, and also during Sunday services.
The number of sticks that you burn carries different meanings to different religions. However, these days, we burn incense not only for religious purposes but because it uplifts the mood as well. Hence, one can associate incense with religious and spiritual purposes and for mere enjoyment.
Now You Know What Bible Says About Burning Incense
Spiritualism and incense are closely linked. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Indians, and Chinese cultures began using incense in the ancient era, and many groups still use it for religious and spiritual purposes.
Some common ingredients used to make incense sticks involve Frankincense, Copal, Myrrh, Lemon, and some other aromatic substances.
Unlike Hinduism or Buddhism, incense is not necessary for most denominations of Christianity. But at the same time, Christianity or the Bible does not treat it as a sin. And that is all the Bible says about burning incense.