Trick-or-Treat? The Christian Halloween Dilemma

A week from today, children all over the country will be dressing up, painting their faces, and gathering up store-bought or home-made bags and buckets to prepare to go door-to-door reciting the familiar words “trick-or-treat!”  Young adults will don creative, clever, scary, or skimpy outfits and flood bars and clubs to consume more adult-themed “treats”.  For a significant part of the United States population, though, next Wednesday, October 31st, presents a conundrum: What do Christians do about Halloween?

The Bible doesn’t address Halloween directly, so it’s no wonder that a simple Google search of “Christians and Halloween” yields a myriad of responses.  They range from outright condemnations of the holiday, to thoughtful expositions of both sides of the issue, to endorsements of Christian participation in the day to bring more souls to Christ. Christians on all points of the spectrum can point to some scripture to support their view.

For the Christian parent, this issue is decidedly complex.  For a child-free Christian, choosing to simply abstain from Halloween festivities and treat it like any other day is of little consequence.  When you have a child attending a public school or secular private school, there are Halloween parties and decorations to contend with, as well as excitement drummed up by the child’s classmates and peers.  For a child, Halloween just looks like a chance to have fun and eat things they normally don’t get to eat, and they don’t understand why they can’t take part.  Many Christian parents resolve this dilemma by engaging in a limited observation of Halloween.  As discussed on Grace to You:

There’s another option open to Christians: limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. There’s nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children–provided you’re not stingy–can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.

Others take the time to explain to their children why the family doesn’t participate in the day.

My family does not celebrate it or participate in it. We do not believe that our children are “missing out,” and neither do they. Other days are used for costumes and parties. Happily, all of our children have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. We have found that Halloween provides an excellent time to remind our children that, as Christians, we are different, and not of this world (Heb. 11:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:11). –from ChristianityAnswers

And for some followers of Christ, participating fully in Halloween is a way to “reclaim” the holiday for Christ.  From Christianity Today:

What would a reclaimed Halloween express? In our culture, Halloween traditionally has allowed us to look at what frightens us—to experience it, to laugh at it, and to come through it. So at the end of October, we are visited by cute Caspers, laughing pumpkin heads, and goofy ghouls.

Should the forces of evil be mocked? Should Satan be laughed at? He most certainly should be. At the beginning of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis includes two telling quotations, the first from Martin Luther: “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”

The second comes from Thomas More: “The devil … the proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked.”

The one thing Satan cannot bear is to be a source of laughter. His pride is undermined by his own knowledge that his infernal rebellion against God is in reality an absurd farce. Hating laughter, he demands to be taken seriously. Indeed, I would say that those Christians who spend the night of October 31 filled with concern over what evils might be (and sometimes are) taking place are doing the very thing Lucifer wants them to do. By giving him this respect, such believers are giving his authority credence.

And from John Mark Reynolds:

Any good thing can be corrupted, but any bad thing can also be redeemed. The Lord Christ is a joyful Lord keen on inviting all people to His feast. Halloween is a chance to rejoice in family. In our household, it is the first sign of the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. We reflect over Advent, the time before Christmas, on the nature of sin, hell, judgment and death not out of gloom or a sense of doom, but to remember what Christ came to defeat.

However you come down on the issue of observing Halloween, 1 Corinthians 8can be informative.  This chapter talks about eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols.  Verse 6 says “yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 (NKJV).  This verse is juxtaposed with the previous one which discusses those who believe in idol gods.  Taken in the context of today’s post, these verses could compare Christians and non-Christians and their approaches to Halloween.  Verse 7 goes on to discuss those who are “defiled” by eating meat that was sacrificed to idols because of their lack of knowledge of Christ.  This could refer to Halloween participants who revel in all the dark, occult-like, paranormal aspects of the holiday.  In the next two verses, we find the key: “But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:8-9 (NKJV).

Basically, putting on a funny costume and handing out candy are not inherently Godly or sinful activities.  However, for someone who may just be beginning their Christian walk, Halloween observance could cause them to become confused or set back in some way. We as growing and mature Christians must examine our own actions in order to make sure we are not being a stumbling block to another believer.  As followers of Christ, our priority should be toward bringing more souls to Him and if anything gets in the way of that mission, it is not important.

What are your thoughts on observing Halloween? Will you take your children trick-or-treating? Why or why not?

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