To Carve or Not to Carve


Out of all the American holidays Halloween poses the most questions for Christians. Not once have I been asked questions about Flag Day or St. Patrick’s Day, but every year I get some questions about Halloween. I can boil all the questions I’ve been asked down to one, “Should Christians have any participation in Halloween?”

Some things should be avoided

Almost every American holiday has elements that Christians should avoid. Take the common practice of getting drunk on St. Patrick’s Day for example. Every Christian should avoid getting drunk on green beer (or any other color beer for that matter!). That doesn’t mean, however, that you should avoid all things green on St. Patrick’s Day. I think the same thing is true for Halloween. There are some things that people do on Halloween that Christians should avoid–seances, ouija boards, and participation in satanic rituals come to mind.

Some things are a matter of individual freedom and conscience

There are other things, however, that I would argue are up to an individuals freedom and conscience. Take carving a pumpkin for example. Now, you can find all kinds of information on where pumpkin carving originated. And some of what you can find is just plain ridiculous, like the myth that druids were the first people to carve pumpkins, and that they carved demonic shapes into them for satanic rituals. (The problem with this myth is that pumpkins were first introduced to Europe 500 years ago and druids disappeared about 1,000 years ago.) But let me just own up to a reality. People have used pumpkins in ways that dishonor God. Here’s the important question: does their misuse of pumpkins mean that I should stay away from them altogether? Based purely on that logic I would say no. My biblical support for that is Paul’s teaching on meat that was sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8:1 – 6. Here’s what was happening. Animals were being sacrificed in pagan, idolatrous ceremonies and the leftover meat was being sold at the local market. Imagine walking into your local grocery store and buying a steak that came from a pagan sacrifice. Should you buy that meat? eat it? serve it to others? Some people said, “Stay away from it,” while others said, “Eat up.” Paul’s simple point was two fold. First, there is only one God, so a sacrifice to an idol is not a sacrifice to a god at all. Second, God made everything, including that meat. Don’t call something God made good evil or impure. His final advice was, “If your conscience does not condemn you then eat the meat–as long as it doesn’t damage another brother or sister in Christ.” That’s the way I look at something like pumpkin carving. God made pumpkins, and I’m not about to condemn something God made and called good. I can take a pumpkin and carve it, eat it, paint it, then compost it to the glory of my God who made it…IF and only if two conditions are met. 1) I feel no condemnation in doing so, and 2) my actions do not cause other Christians to stumble.

There are many things associated with Halloween that fall into this category. Which leads me to my last point.

Don’t do anything without thinking

It’s both foolish and dangerous to do something without giving it thought. We should think through every action in light of Scripture, the work of Jesus, and the mission God has given us. Before you carve a pumpkin and set it by your front door you should consider your ministry in your community. Before you send your kids out to collect and consume a ridiculous amount of candy you should consider that gluttony is a sin. Before you lock your door and turn off your lights on Halloween night you should consider if you could use your neighbors coming to your house to get candy as an opportunity for a gospel conversation. Think through your actions, pray for wisdom, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. In the end make 1 Corinthians 10:31 your goal. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

*For more on Christians and Halloween:

Sent into the Harvest: Halloween on Mission (by David Matthis / Desiring God)

What are Your Thoughts on Halloween (by John Piper)

The History of Halloween Revisited (by Mars Hill Church)