The Bible offers numerous instances that illustrate how dance can serve as a method of worshipping the Lord. It also reveals moments where people engage in dance to honor a joyful event, not specifically as a means of worshipping God.
Dancing to express joy to the Lord is clearly right and good in His sight.
When people danced to worship an idol, however, like God’s people did during their wanderings in the desert after being freed from slavery, God clearly disapproved.
Negative Instances of Dancing in the Bible
The Lord had done astounding feats to deliver His people, the Israelites, from Egyptian slavery.
He had made a dry path for them to cross a sea, so here these people got to walk, run, dance, whatever they wanted, to freedom while seeing tumults of water restrained on both sides.
The miracles didn’t stop there.
For their morning meal, He enabled His people to make bread by harvesting the fine flakes left on the ground after the dew evaporated.
This bread had a sweet taste, spiced as if with coriander seed, having the texture of a wafer.
For their evening meal, they had quail. The Lord made the birds come and spread out across the camp, no hunting or chasing involved, dinner served. (Exodus 16:8-36)
The people got to see water flow out of a rock and quench their thirst with it. (Exodus 17:6)
These miraculous provisions absolutely demanded and should easily bring out acts of worship from the people. But it was betrayal the Lord got.
While Moses their leader was away in the mountain with the Lord longer than they had expected, the people resentfully threw their jewelry in a big melting pot and made a golden calf to worship.
They ate, played, and danced around it, praising it for delivering them from Egypt. (Exodus 32: 1-8)
So like us. God does something great for us, and not long after, we find ourselves in a trial and turn to something we shouldn’t or someone else first to help us.
He sustains us day-by-day, faithful, and we go to bars and drink to the singer, to a dirty joke, and dance to flaunt bodies designed by God, to excite sinful desires that more and more end up in the killing of an unborn child.
No, not all dancing is good, especially dancing to worship an idol, or dancing around a tree to honor a new season or a god or goddess of some sort.
Is it sinful to dance just for the fun of it, though?
It seems like, in our culture, if someone just wants to dance as a night-out activity, their options are limited to a club or bar. A club or a bar usually means smoke-filled rooms, tattoo-laden people (nothing wrong with this), dim lights that incite sensual behavior, a bar that serves alcohol that promotes sin and a general forgetting of God and a godly honoring of one’s body. That said, clubs and bars certainly aren’t off limits. But we should be smart about visiting them.
There are instances in the Bible, though, where people danced not necessarily to worship God, but to celebrate. This seemed acceptable.
Positive Mentions of Dancing in the Bible
Many have heard of the parable of the prodigal son. A father has two sons, one stays close to home and does all the right things; the other asks for his inheritance and leaves.
The son who leaves wastes all his money on careless and immoral living, then goes back to his father and repents (he’d hit rock bottom, literally having to eat from a pig’s trough for food).
Does his father scold him? Turn him away? No! His father is like our merciful heavenly Father. He throws a party to celebrate his child’s return to him with music and dancing. (Luke 15:25)
I think, though, the return of a wayward son is what’s being celebrated more so than the son himself.
Where men themselves are celebrated in the Bible is King Saul and his best warrior, David. As they’re coming home from victory on the battlefield, King Saul at the front, the women of Israel welcome them with tambourines and dancing.
Along with dancing and playing instruments, they also sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:6-7)
The Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn the women’s celebration that I could tell, even though the song gives credit to man rather than to God. It’s possible that their praise was just meant to celebrate a military victory and this was the way to do that.
But it had made Saul jealous and paranoid and want to kill David, causing conflict and eventually collapse within Israel’s leadership.
As far as dancing just for fun, or group, stylized dancing like country line dancing, or dancing as an art form – I think one would need to examine their motive and seek the Lord to guide them in their decision.
A lot of what we could do with our time isn’t bad in itself. There could just be things about it that aren’t right.
Playing baseball, for example, isn’t bad, but if someone spends all their time practicing and playing, then it could become an idol that’s taking them away from a relationship with God.
And there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with ballroom dancing. I think of a well-lit room, elegant attire – yet one person could be silently praising God for a healed hip as they twirl around, while someone else could be imagining that everyone is admiring their grace and beauty.
The Heart of Dancing
Except for the obvious cases of worshiping a god or an entity other than the One True God, and dancing lewdly or in corrupting environments to secular music – the question of whether dancing is good or bad in God’s sight just might come down to one’s heart.
David danced in front of myriads to sincerely show his gratitude and awe of God. Another man could dance in church to put on a show of gratitude and awe.
A ballerina might put on a dance performance to please God with the gift He’s given her, while another might do so to please her parents, or to gain recognition for herself, or to hide from problems.
God knows our motives better than we do and wants us to seek Him to give us wisdom in how we spend our time here on earth, which will glorify Him.
The Bible Says to Glorify God with Our Bodies
Are we dancing to glorify God? This is what I believe God is most interested in, since He is the one who says to use our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice. (Romans 12:1)
He wants us to see our bodies in this way because His purpose for us is to become more and more like His Son, Jesus, who was first to surrender His body as a living and holy sacrifice that He might win us to salvation, joy, and everlasting fellowship with Himself and the Father.
So the kind of dancing we might do and the reason for the dancing should be in line with how He wants us to use and see our bodies – that we may be blessed and at rest in Him.