The officiant of a funeral service saying, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is a common practice in many branches of Christianity. It is most often spoken after the casket is lowered into the grave at the same time that dirt is symbolically thrown on top of the casket. It is interesting to note, however, that the exact phrase ashes to ashes, dust to dust does not occur in the Bible. Rather, it comes from the funeral section of the Book of Common Prayer.
The most well-known version of this funeral rite comes the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and reads as follows:
“In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother [NAME]; and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious unto him and give him peace. Amen.”
While ashes to ashes, dust to dust is not explicitly biblical, it is solidly based on Scripture. Genesis 3:19 reads, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 18:27 records this statement from Abraham: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes.” Similarly, Job lamented, “He throws me into the mud, and I am reduced to dust and ashes” (Job 30:19). In Ecclesiastes 3:20, Solomon declared, “All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”
The saying ashes to ashes, dust to dust is a powerful reminder that God created us from dust (see Genesis 2:7), and that due to sin, our physical bodies will all eventually return to dust. We need to take our eyes off the things of this world and instead focus on eternity (Matthew 6:19–21). Our physical bodies will return to dust, but our spiritual being will return to God, to stand before Him in judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Through faith in Jesus Christ, that day can be a glorious one, rather than something to be feared.