Halloween is rooted in and remains a pagan holiday. The ancient Catholic holiday of All Saints Day was November 1st, a day designated for the dead saints of the Catholic Church to be proclaimed, praised, and venerated. And if the religious crowd was going to have a day for their dead saints, the pagans were going to have a special day, a holiday for “all things dead.” The night before All Saints Day, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) would be the time for goblins, ghouls, ghosts, and gore to be proclaimed, praised, and venerated.
When I was young, Halloween meant little more than a nighttime walk through our neighborhood in a simple costume, “trick-or-treating” at our neighbors’ homes. Today, however, Halloween has become a multi-billion dollar industry. I read one estimate that total spending on Halloween could reach $7 billion! Television networks feature horror movies throughout the month leading up to the “big” day. Entertainment opportunities are endless, from haunted houses to elaborate Halloween parties in homes and businesses.
So how should Christian believers respond to Halloween?
First, the Gospel has set us free from superstition so that we can rest on revelation. We are enlightened by the truths of the Gospel and empowered to live in their light. One of these truths is that the principalities and powers of darkness are no more active on Halloween than any other day of the year. Every day is a day that evil seeks to invade.
Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Scripture makes it clear that we Christians have a target on our backs that the devil is aiming at every day of the year. We need not be any more concerned on Halloween than we are on any other day of the year; we should be sober-minded and watchful 365 days a year!
Next, we need to remember that the devil can only do what God allows him to do. The devil is on a leash and it is short one. God uses the devil to accomplish His purposes in this world and in the lives of His people.
Having disarmed the powers and authorities, [God] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15)
The devil is disarmed and defeated, but He is still doing everything that God allows him to do. Scripture reveals that God is actually using Satan’s evil to advance the cause of the Kingdom of God. This keeps us from locking ourselves behind our doors on Halloween for fear of the devil and his minions. Police statistics make it clear that incidents of satanic-associated crime remain about the same throughout the year.
The real danger on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior—parties with inappropriate behavior, pranksters, drunk driving, vandals, and sadly, something that is on the rise in this culture: unsupervised children. And this is where the Gospel comes in.
The Christian community is to respond to Halloween with Gospel-saturated compassion and concern for the unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world. Opportunities for evangelism are endless! Some churches hold “Harvest Festivals” as alternatives to the traditional Halloween activities. They invite neighborhood families and share the love of Christ. Costumes are friendly and the only ghost is Holy.
You may have also heard of churches who operate a “Hell House” or “Judgment House” as a way to evangelize. The goal is to create carnival-style haunted houses that will frighten the audience and urge them to make professions of faith. Some of the more graphic productions put sin on display: human sacrifice in satanic rituals, demon possession, women undergoing abortions, consequences of premarital sex, and more. The goal is noble, to be sure, but frequently visitors find the depictions of grotesque sin to be more cringe-inducing than anything else.
Some Christians adopt a “no participation policy” when it comes to Halloween. Entire families shun the evening: they don’t allow their children to trick-or-treat; they don’t give out candy; they don’t attend an alternative Christian event. While some Christians judge this “abstinence” with raised eyebrows, this posture has also opened doors for evangelism, as parents explain their Christian motivation to curious unbelievers.
Here is my bottom line: there is nothing inherently evil about costumes and candy or even trick-or-treating. Handing out candy to neighborhood children is another opportunity to share the truths of the Gospel and further the purposes of God’s Kingdom. You might add an evangelistic tract or Bible verse to each goodie bag you give out.
Whatever each Christian family decides about their level of participation in Halloween is simply a matter of conscience before God. We are called to make a difference in this world by being different from this world, and one great vehicle for showcasing our love for Christ is how we choose to engage with the world during Halloween.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!