Trick or Treating is OK

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* Is it Sinful for Kids to Go "Trick-or-Treating" on Halloween? Bob shows from the Bible that God allows His people use of pagan names, rather than the Hebrew names, for the months of the year, and pagan names for godly people instead of their biblical names. Bob also show that Jesus went to Jerusalem for a non-biblical religious feast, and that the Scriptures co-opt pagan philosophical concepts. Also, the Bible teaches that God allows Christians even to eat meat sacrificed to idols, and those who are discerning and even more spiritually mature than others can even go to, and eat in, an idol’s temple, including obviously, eating the food that had just been offered to a false god in that very temple. And finally, we see that extra-biblical regulations may have a superficial appearance of wisdom, but that they are counterproductive, and the sin of the flesh that they cater to does more harm and is more spiritually destructive than the alleged dangers that they are designed to prevent.

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But how about Halloween? In Ephesians 5:11, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to, "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness..." So, doesn't that tell us Christians that we should not allow our children to go trick-or-treating? No. That passage, as the context and various Bible commenatries attest, specifically refers to sexual immorality. Note the context starting with Ephesians 5:3 through verse 12:

3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness...

These two latter words have spheres of meaning that include sexual immorality; in this continuing context, Paul uses these words to make the warning against fornication emphatic; to covet is to lust; to be unclean in this context has nothing to do with the ceremonial cleansing rituals of Israel's Mosaic Law, but here it means to be sexually immoral

...let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting [each of these refer to sexually immoral behavior and talk], which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man [again, in context, both of these refer to sexual immorality], who is an idolater has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Paul contrasts what is fitting for saints with the filthiness of unbelievers (i.e., idolaters). And then continues...

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

Not always, but typically, sexually immoral behavior is committed behind closed doors, in secret. What is shameful is not a girl dressed like a princess or a boy dressed up as a #2 pencil, and walking around on Halloween getting candy from neighbors. What is shameful, in this context, and done in secret, is what is referfed to here as "works of darkness", is fornication and all forms of sexual immorality.

When a national Christian ministry claimed that you "make light of evil" if you go trick-or-treating, and wrote that Christians should "skip Halloween and remember Reformation Day. And that... 502 years ago, sometime near October 31, a baby named John Calvin was conceived..." Huh? Conceived? It is so easy to replace God's concerns with man's concerns. The Bible warns us of true evil. Yet if we take verses about hats, and oxen, and water (for example) and we wrongly assume that they are primarily about oxen, and hats, and water, then we will overlook God's real warnings. The opportunity cost of legalism is that, to the extent that we have reduced our Christianity to a set of rules, to that extent we have diminished our relationship with God. And legalism cannot sustain us in our Christian walk.    

Although Halloween has long been overtly mixed up with occult-like practices, this day also has a long Christian history. Even that history, however, is sadly mixed up with false doctrine regarding recently departed souls. Halloween, that is, the hallowed eve, was the night before All Saints Day, which was introduced into the Christian calendar in the year 609 A.D. and moved to November 1st in 835 A.D. Shortly after 1000 A.D., the following day, Nov. 2nd, became the official date for All Souls Day, which had already been celebrated for more than a century. Regarding the date of October 31st, from its earliest days, the church has had vigils on the night before its major feasts (like Christmas and Resurrection Day/Easter). Thus Hallowed-Eve began, with these days designated for praying for those who had died recently (which practice follows from false doctrine and confusion regarding what happens to a person after death). As with funerals, criers dressed in black would walk through town. Starting more than 500 years ago, Christians in many European countries would bake and share “soul cakes” to encourage prayer for the departed. This may be the origin of trick-or-treating, when the poor and children would go door-to-door collecting soul cakes, a practice referenced in the popular culture of 1593 in Act 2, Scene 1 of The Two Gentlemen of Verona by Shakespeare. The wearing of costumes may trace to the then current superstition of trying to escape notice of departed souls, and scholarly research has suggested that the jack-o’-lantern may have represented the souls of the dearly departed.

Dressing children in innocent costumes and letting them walk around collecting candy from neighbors is not the equivalent of participating in the works of darkness, worshiping Satan, or any other such horror. Sometimes, the cure is worse than the disease. God gives tremendous latitude, within moral and spiritual boundaries, to parents regarding how they raise their children. So it should go without saying that, although there is risk, of course it is fine for parents to avoid Halloween, the Wizard of Oz, etc. Their children will make their own judgments about whether mom and dad were actually protecting them from evil, or not. Godly parents keep their children away from so many inherent evils in our society that we effectively say "no" a thousand times over. Wisdom therefore seems to suggest a rule of thumb that when God doesn't say "No" we don't need to say "no."