What does the Bible say about facial hair?

UPDATE (6/5/2008): Because of some of the feedback on this article, I fear that I may have been misunderstood. I would like to clarify that, to my knowledge, no UPC or UPC-affiliated church teaches that facial hair itself is a sin. However, every UPC or UPC-affiliated church that I have attended has taught against facial hair for one of two reasons. The first reason is that many of them have said that facial hair is a sign of rebellion (because of those who used to grow beards out of rebellion in the 1960s). The second reason that facial hair has been taught against is because it offends so many people who are against facial hair.

I think it is only fair to add that I have attended some churches who allowed members to have mustaches.

I hope this clarifies what I am saying in this article.

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Many churches in the UPC teach against having facial hair. I do not know if that position is officially endorsed by the UPC, but I do know that every UPC church I have been in taught against facial hair for one reason or another. The question is, "What does the Bible say about having facial hair?"

The only rule concerning facial hair in the Bible is found in Lev. 19:27, which says, ‘You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard" (NASB). It is possible that God gave this law in response to the customs of Israel’s pagan neighbors1, but, regardless of the reasons for the law, it no longer applies to us today.

Aside from Lev. 19:27, nothing is said in the Bible for or against beards. It is a non-issue Biblically.

So why do so many UPC churches teach against facial hair? The reason that I have always heard is that facial hair is a sign of rebellion. This dates back to the 1960s, when it was presumably fashionable for young men to grow beards as a sign of protest of the Vietnam War. My response to this argument is that, while it may have been a sign of rebellion 50 years ago for a man to grow a beard, it is no longer a sign of rebellion today. Since the Bible does not say anything for or against beards, there is no reason why men should not be allowed to grow them today.

References:

  1. Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson. []

50 thoughts on “What does the Bible say about facial hair?

  1. Joseph Hall

    One last thought and an addendum. It is crude, but memorable. Apostolic pastors are involving themselves in B.S. doctrines (of the cow patty variety) – the Beards and Suits standards. It is curious how the word “standards” is used to mollify potential responses of would-be hearers of “standards” tripe. The word “tradition” is avoided, since pastors who promote the standards against the Lord’s servants wearing beards know full well that Jesus spoke against holding up men’s traditions above God’s word. Similarly, the so-called “standards” among Apostolics regarding the wearing of suits in church is similarly treated as “standard”, not as “tradition”. That is a clever, successful trick. The wearing of suits of various brands, qualities and prices is ubiquitous among Apostolics, it seems (I recall hearing one senior pastor say, “If you don’t wear your best clothes to church, then when do you wear them? I later thought, “I have friends who I bring to church who don’t have “best clothes”. They don’t have “church clothes” and “other clothes”. They are poor.). “Cookie cutter” is what I can’t help thinking when I go among my Apostolic brethren. It is sad. God longs for true revival to break out among Apostolics, but they’re too busy paying attention to their own ability to mind the standards of the B.S. variety. This seems to morph into congregational patterns of worship, with masses of people focusing on the few true seekers, a kind of “mind what others are doing” behavior.

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  2. Joseph Hall

    Nowadays, I choose to wear a beard, especially at times when my face breaks out. I occasionally get a little sore on my face, I don’t know from what. I have thought it might be shingles, an effect of having had Chicken Pox when I was a kid, but I think that condition is more pervasive and painful. It is at those particular times I get the sore (every other year or so) that I let my beard grow out, to cover the sore and to avoid aggravating my skin by shaving it. Sometimes I just get tired of shaving and want to give my face a rest. The person on whom I did doctoral research, Martin Buber, wore a long beard all his life because of a facial deformity. He died a very old Jewish scholar who had a love for Jesus. He wrote some amazing philosophy which has influenced so much thinking, even among Christian scholars. His “I and Thou” is one example. It is a work of astounding beauty. His other writings are extensive. I say all this to further caution you pastors regarding this so-called “beard” standard. Take care to whom you shut the doors of service in your churches. Would you have shut the way to your platforms to the Lord Jesus, who most certainly wore a beard until his tormentors plucked it from his dear face? Would you be Jesus’ tormentors? When you answer this well, maybe true revival will come to your churches and the great masses of people will not be simply staring at others as they seek the Lord.

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  3. Joseph Hall

    Back in the 80′s I was attending a UPC church in Raleigh, NC. After about 6 months I was going to join the church. The pastor had a conversation with me about joining and added, “Oh, Brother Joe…one more thing. If you’re going to be on the platform in front of people, you’ll need to shave your facial hair.” This was important to him, I suppose, since I was a pianist. I had grown up among Pentecostals (though not Apostolics of this sort) and had never heard of this before. Looking back over the experience, I’m surprised I had never noticed that none of the men of the congregation had facial hair! When that old, dear pastor told me this, I laughed. I actually thought he was telling a joke. I said, “Haha…good one!” But he responded, “No, brother Joe, I’m serious.” Well, I went home that afternoon and thought to myself, “Well, maybe this is one of those “won’t eat meat if it offends my brother” deals. And I thought to myself, “It doesn’t really bother me, and i don’t want to bother anyone about this. So I promptly cut off my facial hair and went to church that night to the delight of church members I suppose. That is how I’ve considered this thing through the years and I chose to willingly submit to it, even though I knew full well that it was not a Biblical teaching. (And the thing about beards as signs of rebelliousness is absurd. Men protesting the Vietnam War also ate eggs. Should we stop eating them as well, lest we be considered rebellious? Also, many men wore beards – not just the War Protestors. [I am a Christian (not a political) pacifist, by the way, since Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”) But over the last few years, I have moved to the point that I think this controversy is actually one which concerns pastors of Apostolic churches. The controversy is an open criticism of the “standards” they are imposing on the people under their care and upon those who would be coming under their care. It is as if the Lord is saying to the erstwhile pastors of the various Apostolic churches, “Stop teaching against men’s beards! Stop forbidding men to serve me before others because they have facial hair!” While many members of Apostolic churches have meekly submitted to this rule pulled out of someone’s hat, their response to the rule is not really the issue. The true issue concerns whether it is right for pastors or other church administrators to impose this and other type of baggage on church members. Of course members are supposed to highly esteem and honor the leadership. But it is a great disservice to God and His kingdom when said leaders get into making up rules, willy nilly. I am not saying that church members can therefore answer God regarding following blind people into ditches, “I was just honoring the pastor.” However, I am saying that pastors have a moral responsibility to point people to Jesus and not to themselves and their own cleverly devised fables regarding the status of men regarding facial hair and their worthiness to serve the Lord before others with facial hair. Woe be unto you pastors who teach for doctrines (and standards) the commandments of men. You who like saying “Touch not, taste not, handle not” are to be forewarned.. There is plenty enough that should concern you pastors that can be easily shown to church members in scripture. Shutting up about the rest should not be too much to ask. So shut up about the beards, you pastors! In Jesus name!

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