A Bag of Treats or a River of Delights: A Halloween Parable

In a few weeks children, teenagers, and some adults will adorn super-hero suits, clown wigs, and other silly costumes all for the purpose of having some seasonal fun and gathering a bag full of candy.  Good Christians differ on what to do with this holiday, and without stepping into that firing line, I simply want to take note of the way that Halloween is a dramatic parable of the fleeting pleasures of sin handed out by the houses of this world.

In Hebrews 11, Moses is described as a man of faith because “he considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (v. 26).  Because he was looking to the reward, he chose to be “mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (v. 25).  With heaven in view, he sought God’s reward, instead of the treats of this age.

The same was true of Abraham.  Earlier in Hebrews 11, the father of faith is depicted as a man whose hope is set on the city whose architect and builder is God (v. 10).  Scripture says of him and his offspring, “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (v. 15-16).

In these statements, we see that hope in God’s rewards defines the life of the Christian (Heb 11:6). While we do not yet see our treasure, we believe in the promises of God that Christ has gone away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2; Heb 11:16).  We live in this reality. We say no to the world’s offerings because our hearts are in love with the world to come.

Here is where Halloween provides such a fitting parable.  As trick-or-treaters dress up in search of candy, they hope to collect a sack full of Hershey miniatures and Starburst packets.  On that night, the collection is sweet.  Serious trick-or-treaters know where the best candy is, and they get there early to pull in the full-sized Snickers or Silver Dollar.  Yet, all that is gained on that single night is soon eaten and the costume outdated or outgrown.

The joy of Halloween is as light as cotton candy and as long-lasting as cheap gum.  Contrast this with the joy that comes from the Lord.  Psalm 16:11 says, “In God’s presence is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures evermore.” So too, Psalm 46 describes his dwelling place as possessing “a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (v. 4-5).

In terms of our parable, God’s house is the one who doesn’t stop you at the door.  He doesn’t demand a trick.  He doesn’t leave you hungry by giving you an itty-bitty bag of candy-coated chocolate.  Rather, his guests are invited to come and dine with him.  His food is satisfying and cost of admission is free.

But here is the rub.  In order to arrive at his home, the Christian must pass by all the other doors.  He must say “no” to constant offers of SweetTarts, Smarties, and Milk Duds.  Even when hunger sets in, he must keep plodding towards the mansion on the hill, whose invitation to dine with the king is sweeter than the houses in the valley of death.

So how will the Christian make it?  Like Moses and Abraham, he must keep before him the promises of God and the reward at the end.  Christian faith is not meant to be a stoic battle of the will, that says “I will do right, even when I don’t feel like it.”  No.  The Christian faith is much more like a long journey that says I will say “no” to the hospitality of this world, because I have the promise of an outstanding feast with the king ahead (See Isaiah 25:5-9).

To the world, this kind of reasoning sounds unappetizing.  They will say, “Just Trick or Treat!”  But to the Christian who takes God at his word, he becomes like the child who forsakes the city block to travel into the country to find the home he has never seen, but who has promised a Christmas dinner that is more than he could ask or imagine.

This fall, as you see children dressed in costume and pursuing an abundance of sugary treats, whether you partake or not, remember that such is the feasting of the world.  It comes through personal effort; it lasts for only a night; and its fruits fade away within days.  Contrast this with the city of God and the house of our Lord, whose gifts are never so small, never so fleeting, and never so empty… they only take time for them to come to us!

May we like Moses reject the fleeting treats of this world, because we remember that filling our bags with them is the devil’s trick.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

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