How should a Christian celebrate Halloween?

“The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.
The one who eats, eats in the honor of the Lord…”

(Romans 14:6)

There is a tension that comes with Halloween, much like the tension of Christmas.  With Christmas, it is difficult not to get swept up in the commercialism, the “Currier and Ives” nostalgia, and the flat out hedonism of the “I’ve-been-good-give-me-what-I-want” mentality.

Halloween carries its own jumbled baggage.  The early church celebrated All Saint’s Day to commemorate the lives of the saints who had died as martyrs and witnesses of the faith.  To honor, or “hallow” a saint, sometimes leads to idolatry, elevating the life of a man to a demigod like status, but the abuse of an honor ought not negate the honor.  The author of Hebrews recites the Faithful Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, honoring the great witnesses of our faith as a way of encouraging our continued life of faith.  The night before this day of remembrance, All Hallows Eve – or Halloween – as one Pastor writes, “was thought to be a last ditch party on the part of unholy ones — devils, witches, fairies, imps and so forth.”

None of that really matters today; we’ve lost all sense of tradition or purpose behind Halloween.  Having jettisoned every element of honoring the lives of the saints, the All American Halloween is – like everything else – all about filling your bucket.  Add to that a hyper-sexualization (“Sexy Witch” or “Naughty Schoolgirl”), or ghoulish morbidity (zombie, vampire, etc…), or a combination (“Sexy Zombie Nurse” – which really doesn’t make any sense), and there is little to commend about Halloween.

Still, we want to maintain an “in the world, but not of the world” practice, and if you live anywhere near children, you will surely have a few trick or treaters to entertain tonight.  So what do you do?  How do you celebrate this day without compromising your witness?  Here are a couple of points:

  • Be Gracious
    Remember that there are some Christians, maybe within your own church, who will choose not to participate in the festivities of the day.  Call it what you want, a Fall or Harvest Festival, they want nothing to do with it.  Then there are those whose yards are all decked out, and the fog machine is running, and they greet you at the door in full costume. Faithful Christians disagree about Easter (or is it Resurrection Sunday), Christmas, playing cards on Sunday (or any day for that matter); so you know they will disagree on how we participated in Halloween.  Let this be your guiding principle, “Treat one another with the same grace, patience, and forgiveness that God has shown you in Jesus Christ.”  That kind of love will cover a multitude of sins.
  • Be Hospitable and Joyful
    Here’s a thought from Doug Wilson, “When neighborhood trick or treaters come to your door, I would encourage you to give them more candy than unbelievers give, as opposed to a glare and/or a tract about the fires of hell. We want to behave during this time in such a way that their celebrations are revealed as far more anemic than ours (not to mention twisted and gross).”  We talk a lot about living our lives so that others may see our joy and want to be a part of it.  No watered-down, imitation celebration will do that.  Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine so that everyone marveled.  Do you seriously think that the lollipop and “Jesus sticker” is going to get anyone’s attention.
  • Glorify God
    Whether you celebrate the day as Elvis, or turn off the lights and pray the “hottentots” won’t come to your door, let us remember that in all things we are to glorify God.  If you celebrate the day, celebrate it in a way that will bring glory to God.  And I’m sorry, but I don’t see how demons, ghouls, zombies, and half-naked witches do that.  If you do, then you have a difficult argument to make.  Let your costumes, and your conduct, show the glory and light of God in a darkened world.  Let this be the guiding principle in all of your ways, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).


Spiritual Zombies

“And you were once dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…”
Ephesians 2:1-2

Have you noticed lately the prevalence of Zombie talk in the news, papers, and movies?  This Halloween season there is a new selection of Zombie movies to choose from.  There has been a surge of viral videos on the web in this genre.  Even in today’s paper there was a report of man in Iowa City who was approached by another man who called him a zombie, then proceeded to hit him in the eye and nose.  The walking dead have a certain appeal and fascination today.

Did you know that the Bible mentions Zombies as well?  They aren’t called Zombies by name, but the walking dead are clearly there.  Paul says in Ephesians 2: “And you were once dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…”  Have you ever really thought about what the Apostle Paul is saying here?  You – and this is a plural you which would include, you, me, and everyone else who has read Paul’s letter – even though you were spiritually dead in your sins, you continued to walk through this life. 

I first brought this up at my Junior and Senior High bible studies – I think they thought I had lost my mind.  I showed them Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” Video (which I remembered being a lot scarier when it first came out).  I really liked this video:  We watched the movie trailer for ZombieLand.  Then we talked about Paul’s description of our lives before Christ.  Then just this week, in the my Men’s Bible Study on the Gospel of John this mornng we read this paragraph from John MacArthur:

A person who is spiritually dead has no life by which he can respond to spiritual things, much less live a spiritual life.  No amount of love, care, and words of affection from God can draw a response.  A spiritually dead person is alienated from God and therefore alienated from life.  He has no capacity to respond.  As the great Scottish commentator John Eadie said, “it is a case of death walking.”  Men apart from God are spiritual Zombies, the walking dead who do not know they are dead.  The go through the motions of life, but they do not possess it.  Above all else, a dead person needs to be made alive.

This is the condition of the human spirit, of your heart, before being made alive in Christ.  Jesus said, “No one can see the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again” (John 3:3).  Paul goes on to write in Ephesians that God, “being rich in mercy… made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).  Those who place their faith in Christ Jesus, have been made alive by the grace of God and have been given the promise of really living.  We are resurrected from the dead, awakened from our slumber, and given new life to live today!

This Halloween, as the children (and some adults) dress up for Trick-or-Treating, be on the lookout for Zombies.  No, not the walking dead who are out to eat your brains.  Instead, watch for those who think they are alive, but are truly lost without Christ.  You were once one of them, but someone shared a word of promise with you, someone shared the Gospel, and you found new life in Jesus.  Rather than giving the Zombies candy and sending them on their way, do you think you could share a word of love, hope, and promise?

Grace and peace,

SDG (Sola Dei Gloria)