What Does the Bible Say About Lighting Candles for the Dead?

Lighting candles in remembrance of loved ones who have passed away is a tradition in many cultures and religions. However, this practice is controversial among Christians. Some believe it goes against Biblical teaching, while others see it as a way to honor the dead. In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine what the Bible says about lighting candles for the dead and provide key takeaways for Christians to consider.


The death of a loved one is incredibly difficult. During this time of grief, many long to find ways to honor the deceased and keep their memory alive. Lighting candles is a symbolic act that some Christians have adopted for this purpose. Small votive or tealight candles may be lit in the home, or large candles may stand beside the grave. These candles represent the light and hope that the loved one brought into the world. Keeping a candle burning is a way to show that the flame of life still flickers, even after physical death.

However, some Christians argue that lighting candles for the dead conflicts with Biblical principles. They point to verses that warn against attempts to communicate with the dead or engage in occult practices. Other Christians see nothing wrong with using candles as a memorial symbol and believe it can be done in a way that honors God. With two conflicting perspectives, it is wise to examine what the Bible truly says about lighting candles for those who have passed away.

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Key Takeaways:

  • The Bible does not directly address lighting candles for the dead, leaving room for debate among Christians.
  • Verses warning against occult practices are relevant when evaluating candle lighting.
  • The intended purpose and meaning given to candle lighting matters.
  • Practices tied to unbiblical beliefs about the afterlife should be avoided.
  • Candles representing hope and light can be appropriate memorials if practiced in moderation.
  • Christians should thoughtfully consider their motivations and avoid superstitious or excessive practices.

The remainder of this post will look at key Bible passages addressing issues related to lighting candles for the dead and discuss Christian perspectives on whether this practice is compatible with Scripture or not. Examining Biblical principles surrounding death, ancestor worship, and occult practices provides wisdom for Christians seeking to honor their loved ones in a God-honoring way.

What Does the Bible Say About Lighting Candles for the Dead?

Bible Verses Addressing the Occult and Ancestor Worship

Several passages in the Bible address practices that relate tangentially to the lighting of candles for the dead. While the Bible does not specifically mention candles, it does condemn communicating with the dead and other occult practices. Christians who view candle lighting as part of a ritual or belief system involving these things would see it as incompatible with Scripture. However, those who see it as merely a memorial tend to interpret these verses differently. Let’s look at some key passages.

Deuteronomy 18:9-12

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.” (NKJV)

This passage condemns several occult practices done by pagans living in Canaan, including witchcraft, sorcery, and calling up the dead. Christians who see candle lighting tied to communicating with the dead would avoid it based on this verse. However, more moderate Christians would argue a memorial candle does not equate to conjuring spirits or occult ritual.

Leviticus 19:31

“Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” (NKJV)

Consulting mediums and spirits shows lack of trust in God and openness to deception. This verse implies lighting candles as part of a séance or ritual to invite spirits would be wrong. But again, ordinary memorial candles would not necessarily violate this principle.

Isaiah 8:19

“And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?” (NKJV)

This passage rebukes those who consult mediums instead of seeking God. Attempting to communicate with the dead is portrayed as offensive to God. However, honoring the dead through candle lighting does not necessarily equate to “seeking the dead.” The intention behind the practice matters greatly.

Bible Verses on Honoring Ancestors and the Dead

Another issue raised in evaluating candle lighting is the Bible’s view on honoring dead loved ones. Several verses suggest excessive concern or honor for the dead is unwise or unhealthy.

Ecclesiastes 9:5

“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.” (NKJV)

This verse emphasizes that the dead are unaware of what happens on earth. Excessive focus on honoring the dead takes attention away from pleasing God.

Psalm 115:17

“The dead do not praise the Lord, Nor any who go down into silence.” (NKJV)

The Psalmist notes that the deceased can no longer praise God on earth. Maintaining an extreme focus on the dead can be detrimental to spiritual priorities.

1 Thessalonians 4:13

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” (NKJV)

While we mourn loss, Christians have hope of eternal life. Obsessive mourning over the dead indicates lack of trust in God’s promises.

These verses on death remind us that our priority should be pleasing God and trusting in eternal salvation. Honoring dead loved ones is good, but it should not become an excessive spiritual focus. This principle would discourage lighting excessive candles for the dead or engaging in obsessive mourning. But moderate memorial candles could simply show love for the deceased without violating this principle.

Perspectives on Lighting Candles for the Dead

Considering these Biblical principles, Christians have taken differing stances on whether lighting candles to honor the dead is compatible with Scripture or not. Let’s look at some of the common perspectives.

It’s a pagan/occult practice to avoid

Some Christians point to the Bible’s condemnation of spiritism, witchcraft, and excessive focus on the dead. In this view, lighting candles is part of religious rituals and occult practices that displease God. Even as a memorial, candles could open the door to unbiblical views of the afterlife. They argue it is safest to avoid lighting candles for the dead altogether.

It depends on the purpose and meaning

Christians with this stance emphasize that the intention behind lighting candles matters greatly. If it is done to conjure spirits, honor ancestral gods or goddesses, or communicate with the dead, this would contradict Biblical principles. However, if the candles are simply used to honor a loved one’s memory in a respectful way, they see no conflict with Scripture. Moderation and avoiding superstitious meanings are important.

It’s a long-standing tradition for honoring the dead

Some Christians argue lighting candles is a traditional practice for honoring the dead that can be done in a Biblical manner. They see it as no different than displaying photos, flowers, or other mementos. As long as the practice does not cross into spiritism or excessive mourning, it is a way to show love and honor for dear ones who passed away.

We have freedom in Christ

This stance emphasizes Christian freedom. Since the Bible does not directly prohibit lighting memorial candles, some Christians argue it is a matter of personal choice and Christian liberty. As long as one’s conscience is clear and it does not harm others, it can be done to honor the dead without violating Scripture. However, those with convictions against it should also have their views respected.

As we can see, there are good-faith arguments on various sides of this issue. Thoughtful Christians can reasonably come to different conclusions about the appropriateness of candles for the dead.

Practicing Godly Wisdom and Moderation

When evaluating any memorial custom, practices tied to unbiblical religious rituals or excessive mourning should clearly be avoided by followers of Christ. However, remembrance candles may not automatically constitute either of those things. With wisdom and moderation, general guidelines can help Christians honor their dead in a God-honoring manner.

Consider Your Motives and Meaning

Lighting a candle as part of a séance to conjure the dead is clearly prohibited. However, lighting one as a quiet act of remembrance is less clearly defined. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this and what does it mean to me?” Consider your personal motives and the significance placed on the act.

Honor the Dead Without Obsession

Showing love for deceased loved ones is natural and right. But obsession over the dead can be spiritually unhealthy. Lighting countless candles, maintaining shrines, or mourning excessively fails to trust God’s promises about eternal life. Find balance.

Focus on Christ More Than the Deceased

Make pleasing and honoring Christ your priority over memorial customs. Use any memorials to point to the light and hope found in Jesus – not to obsession over the dead. Meditate on Scriptural truth about death and resurrection.

Avoid Superstition and Ritualism

Do not give memorial candles superstitious meaning or engage in ritualistic candle burning. Use candles sparingly and focus on biblical truth rather than depending on religious ritual or routine.

Respect Christian Freedom

Do not condemn other Christians who in good conscience disagree with your view. Respect those who avoid candles due to their convictions, but also respect liberty in matters that Scripture does not directly address. Focus on biblical principles more than specific practices.


The Bible does not explicitly prohibit or command the lighting of candles in remembrance of the dead. As such, Christians have differed in their perspectives on this custom. Some avoid it entirely as unbiblical or dangerous, while others exercise Christian freedom to light candles in moderation as memorials that honor the deceased in a respectful, non-superstitious way.

There are good arguments on both sides of this issue. No one can dogmatically claim candles for the dead are categorically forbidden or required. As with any Christian liberty issue, more important than the external practice is each believer’s heart, conscience, and motive. Focusing on biblical truth and principles gives wisdom for navigating sensitive matters like this with godliness and grace.

Rather than judging others, we must each walk in personal conviction rooted in Scripture. Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance concerning any memorial customs and how to honor both the living God and departed loved ones in a manner that brings glory to Jesus Christ. Whether we light candles or not, may our supreme focus be magnifying Christ by submitting to His truth.

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