Q: #147. Is there anything wrong with having a picture of Jesus?
A: Some people condemn having pictures or images of Jesus based on the Second Commandment found in (Ex 20:4) which says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (an idol) of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” However, I believe verse 5 clarifies verse 4 by saying, “thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.” Keeping this in mind, I see that it is not so much about having pictures or images as it is about not worshipping them.
In fact, it is worth noting that God Himself gave the Israelites many images that pictured Jesus: manna, the tabernacle and its furnishings, sacrificial lambs, the rock they drank water from in the desert, etc… The Lord’s Supper that Jesus instituted is also a visual picture and reminder of the body and blood of Jesus.
We also have a very good Biblical example of the difference between simply having an object vs actually worshipping that object. In (Num 21:6-9), God commissioned Moses to create an image that pointed to Jesus: the serpent on the pole. Since God told Moses to do it, the image was obviously okay. However, we can see that centuries later, the Israelites had turned the serpent into an object of worship called Nahushtan, and Hezekiah destroyed it because he realized this was wrong (2 Kin 18:4).
As far as having a picture of Jesus, I think a person should keep two other things in mind. First, the Bible never tells us what Jesus looked like, so God must not have wanted us to focus on this. The Bible tells us we shouldn’t focus on outward appearances (Jn 7:24)(1 Sam 16:17). Secondly, what would YOU think if all kinds of people who never knew what you looked like at all made pictures and paintings to remind themselves of you, but they looked nothing at all like you? Wouldn’t you find it a bit silly? Maybe even a bit offensive? I think it is safe to say that most of the pictures people have of Jesus look NOTHING like how He actually looked (See: Q: #9. What did Jesus look like?).
I am not a big fan of having pictures of Jesus, but ultimately I believe it is an individual choice that isn’t necessarily wrong as long as the picture doesn’t become more than JUST a picture.