Halloween can be a polarizing time of year for Christians. Some Christians believe that Halloween is inherently evil while others believe that it is harmless. Some churches prohibit their members from celebrating Halloween, some churches offer fun Halloween night alternatives (Reformation Nights, Fall Festivals, etc.), some churches encourage their members to “redeem” Halloween.
What is a Christian to do? Should you dress up? Should you give out candy? Should you go trick or treating with your children?
Well let me tip my hand by stating that we do not offer a Halloween alternative at New Life. We don’t tell our members to “redeem” Halloween either. We believe the question that should dominate every Christian’s heart and mind during this season is not “Should I celebrate Halloween?” but “How can I love God and neighbor?” Christians have the liberty to love God and neighbor by celebrating Halloween or without celebrating Halloween. This is not an ethical question. It is a question of conscience.
1. Halloween is no more inherently evil than Christmas.
Paul’s instructions to the Christians in first century Corinth is very instructive:
“Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)
If you bought food at the public market during the first century, there was a good chance that it had been offered at a pagan temple to some pagan deity. Some Christians believed it was evil to eat food that had been offered to idols. Others believed eating food that had been offered to idols was harmless. The church in Corinth was divided.
Paul told the Corinthians that there is nothing inherently evil about food offered to idols. Christians could eat food from the public markets with a clear conscience. Why? Because the false gods represented by the local idols don’t really exist!
Paul didn’t tell the Christians at Corinth to “redeem” the food. He just told them that they could eat it with a clear conscience. There is no “holy” food or “unholy” food. There is just food, and all food comes from God.
Is Halloween a pagan holiday that needs to be avoided? Is it a medieval Christian holiday (“All Saints Eve” or “All Hallows Eve”) that should be redeemed? History suggests Halloween has roots in both paganism and medieval Christianity. However, the Bible suggests that it is neither pagan (since there are no real pagan gods) nor Christian.
In this sense, Halloween is no more evil than Christmas or Easter. Christmas and Easter also have roots in paganism and medieval Christianity. The Bible never commands us to celebrate “All Hallows Eve,” “All Saints Day,” or even Christmas or Easter for that matter. The only day that the Bible commands us to celebrate is the Lord’s Day (Sunday).
As long as you are not worshipping Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or Samhain, there is nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas, Easter, or Halloween. You can enjoy these holidays the way you would savor a good meal made with ingredients once offered to idols.
2. Don’t violate your conscience.
“However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.” (1 Corinthians 8:7)
Paul recognizes that some Christians might still feel guilty eating food that’s been offered to idols. In this case, Paul says Christians should not go against their conscience. Your conscience comes from your desire to do what is right. When you go against your conscience, you train yourself to ignore your desire to do right. You train yourself to not care about right or wrong. You train yourself to not care about God. It is never a good idea to go against your conscience.
3. Don’t judge people who celebrate Halloween.
“Food will not commend us to God.” (1 Corinthians 8:8a)
Paul is not a legalist. If you feel guilty about eating food offered to idols you shouldn’t do it. But you need to realize that avoiding that food does not make you more mature in your faith, more obedient to God, or more loved by God. In fact, it means you have a weak conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7). Therefore, anyone who makes the tough decision to avoid food offered to idols should be humble about their decision.
It may be difficult to explain to your kids that they can’t go trick or treating when other kids in the neighborhood (or even in your church) get to go trick or treating. It is so much easier to tell them that you are right and they are wrong. But don’t pass judgment on others. You are not making an ethical decision. You are making a decision of conscience.
4. Don’t judge people who won’t celebrate Halloween.
“We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:8b-9)
It is also easy to look down on people who aren’t celebrating Halloween. You have the freedom to celebrate Halloween, but your Christian liberty does not make you better. You need to be humble. You should not look down on people with sensitive consciences. You should not try to pressure them to celebrate Halloween with you. If you have the freedom to celebrate Halloween, they have the freedom not to celebrate Halloween. Do whatever you can to encourage them.
What should you do this Halloween?
1. Whatever you do, make sure you are driven by love not fear.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
Christian obedience is not motivated by fear; it is motivated by love. Remember that your identity is in Christ. When y0u think about how you want to spend Halloween, start with the truth that you are richly loved by God. Then figure out how you can love him back!
2. Consider how you can love your neighbors.
Once a year, your neighbors invite you and everyone else in the neighborhood to knock on their doors. This is a really great opportunity to get to know your neighbors. One the biggest reasons I take my kids trick or treating and pass out candy at my home is so we can get to know our neighbors better.
If you choose not to celebrate Halloween, consider staying home to pass out candy. Or leave a bowl of candy out while you go to your Halloween night alternative at church.
3. Whatever you do, have fun!
Let the thought of loving God and loving your neighbors dominate your heart and mind. He has saved you from your sins. Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Romans 8:38-39)
Whether you celebrate Halloween, go to a Halloween alternative, or stay in and watch a movie, have fun and glorify Jesus! Don’t hole yourself in your house with the lights out. Fall is a beautiful time of year. Enjoy what God has given you in creation and redemption, and consider how you can share that joy with others!
A Christian Halloween Poem
This great video captures how Christians can celebrate the silliness of Halloween and glorify Jesus!