what does the bible say about keeping ashes

What does the bible say about keeping ashes? Is it ok to keep the ashes of your loved ones in your home?

In Uncategorized by Jason Van Duyn

Are you considering cremation and are wondering what does the bible say about keeping ashes?  I have been turning custom cremation vessels for many years now.  I thought it was time to get really clear on what the bible has to say about cremation. Specifically, what does the bible say about keeping ashes? Are you educating yourself on the logistics of cremation? I am glad that you made it here.  I hope that the information that I have found will help you answer some of your questions. 

what does the bible say about keeping ashes -  in a cremation urn

If not, by all means contact me if you have other questions.  Likewise, feel free to take a look at my urn information page after you have read this article, it may be some help to you.  I also invite you to take a look at my cremation vessels found on my cremation urn artistry page, if you are looking for a vessel.
Until they have to face it, it’s not surprising that most people know little about cremation.  Are you here because you are interested in getting really clear on where the bible stands on cremation?  So, for this article I am focusing on what does the bible says about keeping ashes.

Does it make you unclean, does it matter?

I personally do not hold a divinity degree or make my profession in ministry.  To that point I want to look at what the bible says, giving it the authority rather than myself.  So I am going to cite and show you the verses from scripture.  Most of the articles that I have dug through tend to rely on what a person says.  I want you to feel comfortable that it is coming from the Bible and you can check up on what I have to say for yourself.
Generally, there are no explicit verses in the bible that promote or denounce the act of cremation.  However, I have seen an article or two that claims keeping ashes in ones’ home essentially makes them unclean.  I presume that they are drawing primarily from Numbers 19, Numbers 5, and Leviticus 5.
I am including the verses in the article as I believe it will be easier to reference scripture for yourself.  If possible, it may be helpful to open another tab to read the verses around the ones cited for context.  I find bible gateway an easy site to navigate for this purpose, and I am linking to them. 
Numbers 19:9-11 “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin. 10 The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he too will be unclean till evening.  This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the foreigners residing among them 11 “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days… 13 If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel.
Numbers 5:1 The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease[a] or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.” The Israelites did so; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the Lord had instructed Moses.
Leviticus 5:2-5 “‘If anyone becomes aware that they are guilty—if they unwittingly touch anything ceremonially unclean (whether the carcass of an unclean animal, wild or domestic, or of any unclean creature that moves along the ground) and they are unaware that they have become unclean, but then they come to realize their guilt; or if they touch human uncleanness (anything that would make them unclean) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt;or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt—when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned. As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering[a]; and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin.
To me, keeping ashes in a vessel in my house making me ceremonially unclean is a bit of a stretch.  It makes more sense if I touched them, which I doubt most people do.  Considering the old testament only, I can see this argument being plausible. 

Pulling Jesus’s teachings and the New Testament into context

Logically I can see how someone could arrive at this position, so let’s consider it a little bit more.  At its core this is really just about being ceremonially unclean.  So, let’s look at these verses…
Mathew 15:11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not make them ‘unclean.’ It’s what comes out of their mouth that makes them ‘unclean.’ ”
Acts 10:15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
Acts 10:28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
The big take away, I believe, is what is in someone’s heart is more important.  There are times where striving to be always clean can lead to compromising situations.  Lets consider…
Luke 10:30 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
The Levite in this parable undoubtedly should have understood the word and heart of God the clearest.  Yet, the Levite passes by the beaten man.  He even crosses to the other side of the road, and why is that? 
Could it be that helping the man in his condition would have cause the Levite to become unclean?  The proximity to the man appears too much of a risk.  I suspect the reality of the man’s condition is far worse than depicted.  (El bon smarita (1838), de Pelegri Clave I Roquer
Mark 5:25 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
This woman has been outcast for the last 12 years, spent herself into poverty, and lives in state of suffering.  She was pressing into the crowd making all those other people she touched unclean as a result of her condition.  She sought out Jesus in her state of desperation and was healed. 
If we take Jesus’s words in truth, saying “the Father and I are one”, then it’s God’s desire for this woman to be made well.  Jesus didn’t admonish her for being unclean, or require the rights of cleansing.  Rather he praised her for her faith, healed her, and to that point…
Mathew 9:13 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Jesus was referring to Hosea when he made that claim. 
These are just a couple examples from the bible.  At the heart of it, always striving to be clean can come at the cost of relationship with others.  As it says in scripture, God does not lie, and if we are to take that honestly he also does not show favoritism from one person to another. 
Scripture calls us to be in relationship with all people, and to not think so highly of ourselves that we can not associate with people of lower standing.  Often those people of lower standing are in messy situations, or unclean situations, and could well be in a place of suffering that we are called to enter into.

What does the bible say about keeping ashes?

Directly nothing, and if anything, I think there are more verses of scripture that lead against the argument of being unclean due to association with cremains.  I personally believe that God is more concerned about the suffering and mourning of the living that are in proximity to those cremains.
I have been making urns for several years now and in that time I have worked with many families that are looking for cremation vessels due to tragedy, suicide, cancer, other sickness, etc.  There are lots of situations where someone did not live a long pleasant life, pass peacibly, and left their loved ones in a relative state of peace.
I contemplate Isiah 58 a lot as I think that it is one of the clearest places in scripture in revealing the heart of God.
Isiah 58:5-11 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
If you look into it don’t get hung up on the fasting title, rather examine what God is looking for.  Loosen the chains of injustice and oppression, break every yoke, the physical as well as the emotional ones.  From what I’ve observed, it is not uncommon for the living to be bound in emotional chains. Especially so when considering death of a loved one.
I have wondered how often, the mother who is purchasing an urn for her daughter that committed suicide, is feeling those chains of oppression and depression.  In this case this mother contacted me many years after her daughter passed.  She was just then at a place where she could face dealing with this situation.
If scripture from the bible were more definitive relating to cremation, I might have differing opinions.  Reviewing the question – what does the bible have to say about keeping ashes?  This question, and cremation in general it is not explicitly clear from scripture. 
Thus, without that clarity, I believe it’s necessary to look at God’s heart.  As well as what he has called us into.  “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.  (Micah 6:8)

Interested in Digging Deeper?

As I mentioned above there are other verses in the bible that reference things associated with cremation.  This article looks into any negative connection with cremation and the cleansing of impurity.  Also if you have questions if God can resurrect our bodies if they are cremated then see what our ultimate destination is.