How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Funerals?
We base our views and practices related to funerals on the Bible’s teachings, including the following:
It is normal to grieve over the death of a loved one. Jesus’ disciples mourned the death of their loved ones. (John 11:33-35, 38; Acts 8:2; 9:39) Thus, we do not treat a funeral as a time for revelry. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4; 7:1-4) Instead, we view it as a time to show empathy.—Romans 12:15.
The dead are unconscious. Regardless of our ethnic or cultural background, we avoid customs or practices based on the unscriptural belief that the dead are conscious and can influence the living. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10) These include such customs as wake keeping, lavish funeral celebrations and anniversaries, sacrifices for the dead, talking to and making requests of the dead, and widowhood rites. We avoid all those customs and practices, in obedience to the Bible’s command: “Separate yourselves, . . . and quit touching the unclean thing.”—2 Corinthians 6:17.
There is hope for the dead. The Bible teaches that there will be a resurrection and that the time will come when death will be no more. (Acts 24:15; Revelation 21:4) This hope helps us to avoid extreme mourning practices, just as it helped the early Christians.—1 Thessalonians 4:13.
The Bible advises modesty. (Proverbs 11:2) We do not believe that a funeral should be an opportunity to make a “showy display” of one’s social or economic status. (1 John 2:16) We do not arrange for lavish funerals that are designed primarily for entertainment or that feature overly expensive coffins and extreme attire to impress onlookers.
We do not try to impose on others our beliefs regarding funerals. In this regard, we follow the principle: “Each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Romans 14:12) However, if we are given the opportunity, we do try to explain our beliefs “with a mild temper and deep respect.”—1 Peter 3:15.
What is a Witness funeral like?
Location: If a family decides to have a funeral, it may be held wherever the family chooses, such as at a Kingdom Hall, at a funeral parlor, at a private home, at a crematory, or at a graveside.
Service: A talk is given to comfort the bereaved by explaining what the Bible says about death and the hope of a resurrection. (John 11:25; Romans 5:12; 2 Peter 3:13) The funeral program may call to mind the good qualities of the person who died, perhaps highlighting encouraging lessons from that person’s faithful example.—2 Samuel 1:17-27.
A song based on the Scriptures may be sung. (Colossians 3:16) The service is concluded with a comforting prayer.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Fees or collections: We do not charge for any religious services, including funerals, nor do we take up collections at our meetings.—Matthew 10:8.
Attendance: Non-Witnesses are welcome to attend a funeral held at a Kingdom Hall. Like our other meetings, such funeral services are open to the public.
Do Witnesses attend funerals conducted by other religions?
Each Witness decides for himself, based on his own Bible-trained conscience. (1 Timothy 1:19) However, we do not share in religious ceremonies that we feel are out of harmony with the Bible.—2 Corinthians 6:14-17.