The question is, How should Christians respond to Halloween? Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season—are they overreacting? Is it possible for Christians to celebrate Halloween without compromising their faith?
We Christians say that the Bible has the answers to all things. So how does it say to deal with Halloween? Oops…. Halloween is not mentioned in the Bible. Scripture does not speak at all about Halloween, but it does give us some principles on which we can make a decision.
In Old Testament Israel, witchcraft was a crime punishable by death.
Exodus 22:18 (NLT) “You must not allow a sorceress to live. Leviticus 19:31 (NLT)31 “Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 20:6, 27 (NLT)6 “I will also turn against those who commit spiritual prostitution by putting their trust in mediums or in those who consult the spirits of the dead. I will cut them off from the community.27 “Men and women among you who act as mediums or who consult the spirits of the dead must be put to death by stoning. They are guilty of a capital offense.”
In the New Testament we are warned that the occult and Christianity don’t mix.
Acts 8:9, 18-24 (NLT)9 A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power.19 “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”20 But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought!21 You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.22 Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts,23 for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”24 “Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”
Acts 13:6-11 (NLT)6 Afterward they traveled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus.7 He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God.8 But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing.9 Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye.10 Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord?11 Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him.
Acts 16:16-18 (NLT)16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters.17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her. Acts 19:17-19 (NLT)17 The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored.18 Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices.19 A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars.
So How should Christians respond to Halloween?
The name "Halloween" comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. The day before all Saints Day, All Hallows Eve, the time of remembrance. "All Hallows Eve" was eventually contracted to "Hallow-e'en," which became "Halloween."
When Christianity moved through Europe it had to deal with pagan cultures and their customs. The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions.
To deal with the customs and practices of these cultures which included holidays and festivals the organized church would move a holiday that was distinctively Christian to a place on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in "Christianizing" a pagan ritual—the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That's what happened to All Saints Eve—it was the original Halloween alternative!
So, how should Christians respond?
First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious non-believers. Many non-believers, and if we’re honest many Christians are superstitious. Christians are enlightened by the truth of God's Word. Evil spirits, demons, and ghosts, are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year. The day It doesn’t matter to Satan.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. But always remember this;
Colossians 2:15 (NLT) In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
1 John 4:4 (NLT) But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.
Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior—drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children. The indencenses of satanic-associated attacks and other crimes performed by Satanists or witches are very low. Christians should exercise caution of their possessions and protect their families. Halloween parties are breeding grounds for trouble just because they can become rowdy just as other holiday parties. Halloween parties that are well-supervised can be fun and an alternative for Christian young people.
Third, Halloween can be an opportunity for Christians to show the compassion of the gospel of Christ. The unbelieving world lives in fear of death, but more than that it’s the terrifying expectation of judgment for God’s adversaries. Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not really terrifying it’s God's wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner that is terrifying.
Hebrews 10:27 (NLT) There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. Christians can use Halloween and all the death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry, as an opportunity to talk about the forgiveness and eternal life revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember God has given everybody, and that means everybody, the saved and the unsaved, the ability to respond to His truth….a conscience.Romans 2:14-16 (NLT)14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.
Halloween can be a time that Christians can talk to unbelieving friends and family and inform their consciences of the truth about God, His Word the Bible, Christ, judgement, and the eternal life available in Jesus Christ for all those who repent of their sins.
Some Possible Responses
Under the no participation policy Christian parents, don’t allow their children kids participating in spiritually compromising activities. They don't want their children to dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives. This policy is an opportunity for evangelism.
When asked it’s an opportunity to share the gospel to those who ask. It's important that parents explain their policy to their children and prepare them to face the teasing or ridicule of their peers and the disapproval or scorn of their teachers and others.
You could choose to lock yourself in the house with the lights off but that won’t really do anything other than get you a reputation as a grouch and you’ll miss an opportunity to share the gospel and since you are on your home turf they have to listen if they want the treats.
Christian Harvest Festival
Many Christian Churches hold Harvest Festivals as alternatives to secular Halloween parties. In this response the children can dress up. They can dress as famers, Bible characters, superheroes, angles, princess or cowboy . This was really the way that Halloween began in Europe. It is an effective way to reach out and evangelize your friends and neighbors.
Limited, Non-Compromising Participation
There's nothing inherently evil about candy (in fact I love Halloween for that reason), costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide an opportunity to share the gospel. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used for the gospel.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. However you choose to participate, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween is a great opportunity to accomplish both of those things. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is holy and set apart from the world. It’s the message of a forgiving God. Halloween is a great time of year to share that message.
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at email@example.com
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.