Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

My husband and I would like to be cremated after our deaths. Our families do not approve. Is there scripture that will back us in our decision?

B

Dear B,

As best as I can tell, there is no Bible passage that attempts to give guidelines regarding acceptable burial procedures. No matter which burial practices one follows, the results are always the same: “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes." Job reiterated the final disposition of the body in Job 34:14-15: “If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust."

The ancient Egyptians embalmed bodies to delay decay and to prepare for the afterlife.

In first-century Israel, bodies were buried on the day of death! A 60-foot length of one-foot-wide cloth was wrapped around and around the deceased while all sorts of spices were sprinkled in the wrappings in order to reduce the stench of decay. The bodies were then placed in caves or stone sepulchers.

In more recent times, it's customary to embalm a body before burial in order to delay decay long enough for the family to mourn the deceased and to give time for out-of-town friends and relatives to arrive before the funeral.

Burial procedures are rapidly changing in today’s culture. Many people are turning to cremation as the body disposition of choice. One of the primary drivers in this change is the astronomical cost of having a "traditional funeral." The costs for embalming, buying a casket and purchasing a piece of ground to put the casket in is cost prohibitive for too many families.

The only long-term difference between embalming and cremation is time. Cremation just speeds up the process.

You may do well to investigate why your family doesn't approve of your cremation choice. Perhaps they consider cremation as not Biblical. However, as we have seen, cremation is never a Biblical issue.

Perhaps they are worried that when Jesus returns at the Rapture and the bodies of long-dead Christians are resurrected and transformed into spiritual bodies — that you won’t have a body to resurrect. Frankly, since the first century, most (if not all) bodies are now dust anyway. Since God is big enough to produce a world-wide resurrection, He certainly can make a spiritual body from only a speck of dust -- or less.

Perhaps your family wants you in a casket-filled grave so they can have a place for remembering you and your lives together. This desire is natural and normal.

Recently, I've observed families foregoing the expensive caskets and burial plots by choosing cremation. They then purchase a small cemetery plot in which to bury the ashes. Others scatter the ashes over a prearranged place meaningful to the deceased. Some save a few ashes in a small locket as a token reminder of their loved one. Some ashes reside in burial urns over fireplace mantles.

With all that being said, remember that your body is still your body. Discuss openly with your family that you want to dispose of your body in the way most comfortable to you. In your case, that is cremation.

My mother just traded in her outdoor burial plot for an indoor mausoleum space. She decided that she was uncomfortable with the idea that she would be down in the ground with the “worms and maggots!” Then, she got to worrying that above ground a tornado could hit the mausoleum! She wanted to change back; but, she finally decided that worms were worse than tornadoes.