What is the attraction of Halloween? Are people really into ghouls, spirits, devilry, and monsters? Are Americans really that attracted to the otherworldly theme of the holiday? No, probably not. Polls to the contrary, most Americans do not believe in demonic or even angelic spirits enough to think of Halloween as some kind of celebration of them. The answer lies in the donning of costumes and the consumption of alcohol: Halloween is the year's biggest escape from reality!
The ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (November 1), from which All Saints' Day and All Hallows Eve derive, was a kind of New Years holiday. Along with the days immediately before and after, it was special because the Celts believed that the boundary between this world and the spirit world relaxed or lifted, allowing spirits to cross between them more easily. As this idea terrified superstitious people, they mollified the spirits by leaving out food and treats so that they would not curse them. Some practiced various forms of divination to contact departed loved ones. Druids thought this to be the best time to seek guidance from the dead, and the bards sought otherworldly inspiration for their poetry and song.
Another interesting aspect of Samhain's celebration is that the Celts considered it to take place in "no-time," that is, neither in the old year nor the new. Since this "no-time" was a time to itself, normal laws, order, strictures, and customs were held in abeyance for these three days of merriment. People thus did whatever they pleased.
So, the fool held court as the wise man. The baseborn acted as the noble. The servant became the master. Women dressed as men and vice versa. Farmers turned out their cattle, pigs, and sheep from their pens and pastures, allowing them to roam free. Some entered houses through windows rather than doors. No work was done because it was a time of total abandon: of revelry, feasting, drinking, taking dares, disguising oneself, and pretending to be something one was not. Those three strange days were "chaos time."
Our modern version, Halloween, is a "tame" descendant of this Celtic celebration, and its popularity is rising steadily. Revelers use the holiday as an excuse to escape their mundane, banal, yet stressful lives and "take a walk on the wild side." Laws, customs, mores, and order cease for a short time, as participants indulge themselves in whatever they desire.
Probably most consider it "blowing off steam" or "having a good time," but self-indulgence is sin. Instead of releasing the pressure by coming out of a world conducting its affairs apart from God (Revelation 18:4), celebrants compound their troubles by adding on sin and its destructive consequences.
We have been called to a different life, one in which we "put off" our former corrupt, lustful conduct and "put on" new habits and behaviors that reflect the righteous and holy life of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24). Paul concludes in Ephesians 5:8-12, 15-16:
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), proving what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. . . . See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Idolatry has an impact on later generations, and so it matters a great deal if we associate closely with idolaters. Children learn by example, and if their parents set the example that physical objects have excessive importance, then their children will pass down the same values. When we socialize with idolaters, we share in their ways. If we are not careful, we may also begin to share their idols.
Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment
A popular question during the Vietnam War was, "What if they threw a war and nobody came?" This illustrates that we condone and lend support to activities we attend. If everyone obeyed God by refusing to keep pagan holidays, one of Satan's ploys to obscure God's plan for mankind would be thwarted. The Bible is very clear that we should avoid, flee, or turn away from the ways of this world and beware of their entry into the church of God (II Timothy 3:1-5).
Martin G. Collins
This principle clearly covers the care of our bodies. In an overall sense, our stewardship is not merely to labor not to destroy the established relationship but to improve it. Good health is extremely valuable. Even though one can overcome poor health in one's vanity, of greater importance is that good health promotes the strengthening of the relationship. This is so because it is bound within the sanctification process. It is tied directly to growing, overcoming, purifying one's life, avoiding the pitfalls of life, living the abundant life, as well as to our witness before the world in glorifying God.
We can undertake a great deal of serious effort in keeping ourselves from committing sins like idolatry, fornication, adultery, lying, or stealing, while virtually ignoring the physical care of the body itself. Oftentimes, we do this by being ignorant of the responsibility or foolishly thinking that maintaining or improving our health is of little concern. The younger among us may find it helpful to ask someone older—one whose health is deteriorating or who has had to deal with poor health much of his life—how important having good health throughout life is. In no way should this reduce our efforts to overcome spiritual weaknesses, but it should encourage us to add another area of overcoming that will glorify God.
Genesis 2:15 says, "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it." Dressing and keeping is an overall responsibility for everyone in what we are to do with life. It applies to life's spiritual and physical aspects. We are to begin where we are and cultivate, embellish, and encourage growth, while at the same time preserving, guarding, and protecting through maintenance from decay and deterioration.
A direct line connects this concept and Jesus' instruction in the Parable of the Unjust Steward. The spiritual level is more important, but God wants faithfulness in the physical level also because both are inextricably bound in yielding to Him in the building of character. Both require study, meditation, and setting goals, as well as consistent, faithful application. We do both to glorify Him.
Unfortunately, some will not do what is necessary for success, perhaps because of ignorance of their responsibility. Others know but lack the character or the sense of responsibility. Some spend their time rationalizing and justifying the way they are or proclaim to themselves and others that they are victims of the system and have no way out. Nevertheless, God is in heaven, and He is the way out.
Eating is a major part of life, as substantiated by the Bible's 700 references to it. The abundant life that Jesus proclaims He wants all to lead hinges upon what we eat spiritually and physically. We must make a major effort to feed our minds and bodies with the best nutrition available, if we desire good spiritual and physical health.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part One)
This series of verses is not an appeal for us to break all of our worldly associations. Recall that Paul urges the Christian partner in a divided marriage to strive to maintain the relationship as long as possible. This, instead, is an appeal to avoid too close associations. He says not to go into the world, but come out of it (see Revelation 18:4). We should not deliberately make close associations with the peoples of the world. It is all right to do business with them and to work with them, but avoid becoming harnessed together with them.
The statement, "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters," seems to hinge on whether or not we are allowing ourselves to become yoked into these associations. God does not want us in these close associations with the world because it almost inevitably leads to compromise with His standards. It jeopardizes the consistency of the Christian's witness for God because there is a spiritual force in the world that undermines the Christian because the unbeliever does not share the Christian's standards, sympathies, or goals in life.
Is it unfair that God should ask this of us? Remember, He has bought us with a price (I Corinthians 6:20). The price was the life of His Son, which obligates us to a life of purity and holiness. Once we accept that sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, we belong to Him. He is our Master, and He says, "Come out of the world and be separate." That is a demand that He puts on us.
Does God ever ask us for something that is not for our good? Of course not! And how is this for our good? Because He knows that it is likely that His people, though they have the Spirit of God, will have an extremely difficult time resisting the spiritual force that wants to lead them to compromise on the standards of His Kingdom. He thus obligates us to purity of life, to holiness, to separation from evil. We owe our allegiance to Him alone, and we cannot allow ourselves not to be a fit vessel for Him to live in.
There is no surer way to go backward in our spirituality, to blunt our feelings about sin, to dull our spiritual discernment until we can scarcely tell evil from good, and to dry up the source of our spiritual strength than by needless mingling with the world. We should stress the word "needless" because Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:9-10 that to avoid all contact with the immoral, one would have to go out of the world. There is nothing in the New Testament to indicate separating oneself by moving into a commune of believers or living alone like a hermit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part Two)
As the spiritual temple of God, as God's sons and daughters, we have a duty to make ourselves as "clean," "pure," or "holy" as possible. This "perfecting holiness" includes all areas of life, not just the spiritual. Paul makes an unmistakable distinction between flesh and spirit (II Corinthians 7:1) only two verses after he paraphrases Isaiah 52:11: "Do not touch what is unclean."
Clean and Unclean Meats
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 2 Corinthians 6:17: