Halloween, from a degree of difficulty perspective, is the most challenging of all our holidays. A few days out of each October we are asked to give mental energy to this tradition.
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The good news is that this makes Halloween no different from any other thing in your life. It is just another discipleship opportunity–a privilege the Lord gives you to bring a right response to this annual interruption. And God does not leave you alone.
- The Spirit of God gives you clarity on all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
- His authoritative and sufficient Word comes alongside you to guide your thoughts (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- You have others to bounce off your ideas (Proverbs 11:14).
This inter-connectedness of God, Scripture, and community provide you with unassailable wisdom to formulate a biblical response to Halloween, which is great news because like every other secondary issue in life, collective perspectives and approaches can be all over the map.
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- The Santa Claus Question: What Do I Tell My Children?
What Shall I Do?
Here are six of those approaches:
#1 – Flight Approach – Howard leads his family by declaring Halloween as movie night. He herds his family upstairs. The lights are turned off, and the family is huddled around the TV watching The Sound of Music…for the 14th time.
#2 – Engage Approach – David calls Howard a legalist. David allows his kids to dress in costumes for a night of harmless fun. “You only live once; let them enjoy it. Besides, they can share Christ with the other kids.”
#3 – Ignore Approach – Luann pretends it does not exist. She is a single mom, multitasking at a level that few of us can comprehend. She does not need another battlefield to walk onto with her children.
#4 – Succumb Approach – The Smiths struggle with the fear of man: “What do others think of us?” (Proverbs 29:25). Though they do not care for Halloween, they typically succumb to their nagging children, as well as the pressure they perceive from their friends.
#5 – Passive Approach – Then there is George. He is your stereotypical lazy, passive dad. He does not care. As long as it does not interfere with his life, he’s good. “What’s the big deal? When I was a kid…(blah, blah, blah).”
He then goes off on a rant about how hard he had it as a kid and then ends with, “…look at me. I turned out okay.” Leah (wife) has never been courageous enough to honestly tell him what “turned out okay” looks like from her perspective.
#6 – Arrogant Approach – In the men’s group, Paul is waiting for the discussion to turn to him. He loves throwing down the Reformation Day card because he is pretty sure most of his friends have not thought about it.
Though his answer is logical, the self-righteousness that flows out of him, and the disdain he has for those who do not see things his way, is stifling.
Little Bit of Halloween In All of Us
Here is a short test for you: What did you think about when you read the brief stories regarding the different responses to Halloween? I am asking you this question for two reasons:
- You probably have friends who represent most, if not all, of those people.
- How you think about them will affect how you engage them.
Emoting about Halloween in non-constructive ways is easy. Passion is fantastic, but humble self-awareness–an awareness that reminds you of who you were without Christ in your life–should temper enthusiasm.
- Who were you before Christ found you (Ephesians 2:1)? Dead in sin.
- What are you apart from His persevering grace (1 Timothy 1:15)? The biggest sinner you know.
Without humility, passion will create disunity, which is why it’s helpful to consider that even if you are categorically opposed to Halloween, you need to remind yourself that you have a little bit of Halloween in your heart.
We all do.
You should not speak about evil as though you do not participate in evil…in some way. The darkness of Satan impacts your life throughout the year, not just on October thirty-one.
My appeal is for you to guard your heart before you pontificate about Halloween. If you do not sprinkle your mind with grace, your communication can be harsh and non-redemptive.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29
Halloween should not be about winning arguments, splitting hairs, or flaunting theological knowledge. Your primary goal is to position yourself to be used by God to redeem lives, which makes Halloween an opportunity to put Christ on display by your attitude, words, and actions.
Dear Lord – I have an opinion about Halloween, but you know me. Will you guard my heart and control my tongue as I speak on this subject? I want the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart to be acceptable in your sight (Psalm 19:14). I also want to help, not hurt people.
With humility ruling your heart, God will give the grace and wisdom you need to redemptively engage your culture and friends regarding Halloween (James 1:5-8, 4:6). As you know, you cannot cookie-cutter your responses to your friends. You interact with each one differently. Individualized care is how the Savior engaged people (John 2:24-25). He discerned the person and situation and then customized His approach accordingly.
If I were close friends with Howard, David, Luann, the Smiths, George, or Paul, and had the context, time, and relationship to speak with them, here are a few things I would want them to consider:
#1 – Flight Approach – Howard is going to have to deal with Halloween. He cannot bury his head in the sand and pretend it does not exist. While his kids are young, he can herd them upstairs, but his children will not be young forever. And they will eventually tire of The Sound of Music.
He needs to be wiser in his parenting approach, which includes incrementally introducing his children to the world. Howard needs to lead his children by teaching them about life and culture. Halloween is an excellent opportunity for him to do this.
If he does not do this, the culture will not only teach his children their ways, but the culture will put pressure on his kids to follow them in their ways. It could be that some of his children may not be able to withstand the pressures placed on them by their culture, mainly if they have not received teaching, encouragement, and discipleship, or if they are susceptible to fear of man (Proverbs 29:25).
Though they may be able to recite and even act out The Sound of Music, they will be at a loss when it comes to cultural engagement.
#2 – Engage Approach – Immaturity is not a good answer for the Halloween dilemma. David is over-reacting to Howard’s unwillingness to engage by letting his children become the anti-legalist poster children.
I have encountered many David’s in my life. They usually come out of legalistic environments and are easily tempted to over-correct their practices through misuses of grace. This problem is a “grace mistake” where grace becomes an excuse to live how you want to.
Sometimes people like David are saved later in life and have not had enough Christian training to reflect on Halloween wisely. In cases like this, it would be wrong to expect him to be mature about Christian perspectives (2 Peter 1:3).
You should not expect the things you have learned from walking with the Lord for several decades to be the preferences of those who are just beginning their faith walk. This perspective does not mean you should leave David just as he is. A close friend should come alongside him to help him work through some of his comments.
- Harmless fun – It is not benign in that he is teaching a worldview to his kids. Halloween, like all things, comes with a worldview–a presupposition. Van Til taught us how there are no neutral facts. He is right. Halloween is not neutral.
- You only live once, let them enjoy it – This statement is tied to the former, in that David has a fun worldview, which could stand a little God-centered reshaping.
- They can share Christ with other kids – Unless his kids are little apostles, I am pretty sure their fixation will be on the candy they receive, rather than the Christ they could share. Even if they were going to do evangelism, surely David could find a better venue and time for them to do it. The “hit and run” shove a Bible tract at someone and leave has seen better days.
His overly spiritualized, fun-centered worldview is more of a justification that releases him from the hard work of parenting.
#3 – Ignore Approach – Being all alone in this world is asking too much from anyone. This problem is part of the reason there is a local church. Luann needs the body of Christ surrounding her, helping her to parent her children.
She is too overwhelmed to think about Halloween while hoping it will not be a big deal this year. Her local body needs to perceive her struggle and come alongside her to care for her family.
#4 – Succumb Approach – Somebody needs to come alongside the Smiths too, and carefully walk them through the underlying issues in their collective lives.
How to respond to Halloween is not their primary problem. Halloween is a temporary seasonal litmus test they fail each year. But this failure points to the broader issue of insecurity, which leads to their frail relationship with God.
Like Luann, they need friends–biblical friends who love them enough to help them mature in Christ. You can bet if they cave to the cultural expectations and pressures surrounding Halloween, they are failing in other areas too.
#5 – Passive Approach – George is slowly losing his family, and he does not see it. He may not care. George will be difficult to help because he needs a compassionate kick in the seat of the pants.
Motivating a passive person is hard. George is the anti-gospel man. The gospel is about going, giving, intruding, impressing upon, and getting to the heart of the problem, while seeking to transform lives. George is not doing any of those things. George is about George.
#6 – Arrogant Approach – Paul is George’s opposite. He loves being right, being in control, and coming across as impressive. Pursuing, creating, and sustaining redemptive relationships are not his strengths.
From the outside looking in, he appears to have the best answer, but his heart is in dire need of gospel-centered transformation. The apostle Paul spoke to people like this in 1 Corinthians–those who were more about being right than being redemptive (1 Corinthians 8:1-3).
Some people in Corinth knew it was not a big deal to eat meat, but their attitudes were wrong. Having the right answer is only part of the solution. Having the right attitude is essential.
Knowledge can puff up the inflatable mind, while love can build up the needy soul. Our friend Paul should be more careful, more engaging, more involved, and most definitely more humble.
Call to Action
Trick or Treat Questions
- Do you see Halloween more as a point to be right or as an opportunity to be redemptive?
- Are you willing to engage your friends redemptively or are you tempted to refrain because of fear?
- How does your self-awareness govern your perspective?
Halloween Is a Discipleship Issue
Like all things in our lives, Halloween is a discipleship issue. It should not be a divisive issue. We are to divide over the gospel when there is an error as Paul taught in Galatians 1:8-9.
A few years ago one of our small group members humbly asked us about our views on Halloween. We had different opinions than them, which they were aware. Rather than making them feel dumb, unusual, or wrong, it was an opportunity to walk through what we believe, why we think what we believe, and how we practice it while anticipating the Lord to work in their hearts in whatever way He wanted to.
I chose a different approach for this Halloween article. There are many arguments circulated during this time of the year about how Halloween is of the devil and why you should steer clear of it.
I could have done a piece from that angle, but it would have been rehash-ad-infinitum. That information is public domain and easily accessible. I typed in “Christian perspective on Halloween” and got over 3.5 million possibilities in 0.17 seconds.
If you want to gain a Christian perspective on Halloween, please take the time to do the research. It will benefit you. My point in writing this article is to talk about how your attitude toward others who differ from you find submission to the mind of Christ.
If you are living out humility, you should be redemptively positioned to compassionately and competently enter into church and cultural engagement on any issue.
Also published on Medium.