The leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler and soon many undercover munchkins will crowd your streets in search of goodies. Most of you will give the little people what they desire whether or not they appropriately greet you with a “Trick or Treat,” as our customs demand. It is unknown exactly which pre-colonial ritual inspired our current American Halloween celebrations (most likely it was a combination of several ancient traditions meant to honor the dead) or why exactly we willingly accept candy from someone who has the power to “trick” us, but we do know one thing for certain: children look super adorable in their costumes!
Ok, so that last bit has nothing to do with the point of this blog post, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I absolutely love to plan out, assemble and dress up my babes in charming little disguises. And take lots of photos, of course. As parents, we must document these currently adorable moments, to be taken out every so often and oooh-ed and aww-ed over.
Switching gears here. Like most American holidays, Halloween is a time for families to get together and make memories. We often don’t think about the reasons why we participate in these customs or even how we could relate them spiritually and Biblically. So let me take a few minutes and offer some thoughts on spiritual trick or treating.
When you think of a “treat” in the Bible, it doesn’t take long for your mind to settle on many: the miracles Jesus performed, Jesus’ death and resurrection, the blessings God has promised for His children, etc. But Biblically speaking, can you think of a “trick” that we can read about? One where a person disguises themselves with the intent of trick or treat-ery?
My mind settles on one in particular. Going back to Genesis 27 we can read the story of Isaac, Rebekah, their sons Jacob and Esau and a little trick that took place in their family. I’m sure you are familiar with the story but the funny thing about scripture is that each time you read a passage, you have the opportunity to see something different there.
To really understand what happened, let’s first read a couple of chapters before, when Jacob and Esau were still in Rebekah’s tummy, yet to be born.
“The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
The boys indeed grew up to be opposites. Esau is described as a skillful hunter and a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man who dwelled in tents (Genesis 25:27). In the very next verse we read
“Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game;
but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
That verse is enough to explain to us the division between the brothers, with parents who seemed to pick favorites, but it goes on. The boys were twins, with Esau being born first, and Jacob holding onto his heel in a close second. In those days, the eldest son was the one to inherit all of his father’s land and possessions. A few verses down in chapter 25, Jacob was inside cooking stew. Esau returned from the field and was exhausted. He must have really been famished because when he asked to eat some of Jacob’s food, Jacob insisted that he first sell his birthright to him in exchange for a bowl of stew and Esau agreed. In those days, there was no going back on your word.
Ok so now that we’ve brushed up on the back story, now on to Genesis 27 and Jacob’s trick. Now Isaac their father was quite old and had become blind in his old age. As his firstborn, Esau was still entitled to a blessing. His father called him and said,
“Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now take your weapons,
your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me,
and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me
so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”
So Esau left the house to complete his father’s request. Meanwhile Rebekah heard their conversation, immediately went to Jacob and presented her idea that seemed like more of a command really. Jacob should go to their flock, bring back two young goats so that she could prepare food for Isaac the way he likes and Jacob would go in to receive the blessing before Esau returned home. Jacob objected at first, fearful his father would know it was him (“my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man”), but his mother had already thought of this and gave him a disguise of goat skin combined with Esau’s furry clothing.
She prepared the food and Jacob’s disguise and together they successfully tricked Isaac and Jacob got the blessing. Soon after Esau returned to prepare his food and receive his blessing, only for he and his father to quickly find out they had been tricked.
I bring up this story because it is the closest Biblical account to our modern day “Trick or Treating,” although I know most children do not literally intend to trick anyone into believing they are in fact a pumpkin, ghost or Disney princess. However, in reflection, how do we attempt to trick God? Unlike Isaac, God can see all and cannot be tricked by us. He knows our hearts and minds better than we do because He created us.
Take a minute or two to reflect on your spiritual life. What tricks and treats are you offering to God? We know it is futile to attempt to trick God and yet sometimes we might attempt to trick ourselves into believing the things that we do could not be helped. That we are somehow not to blame for our own actions. That is simply not true (Rom. 3:19, Rom. 14:12) On the other hand, do we offer enough treats and blessings to God? Do our very lives honor Him? Do we serve him with a willing and generous heart? Just some things for us all, myself included, to reflect upon the next time we hear the phrase “Trick or Treat?”
P.S.- Here are some pics of my kids/family and their/our Halloween costumes each year. Please share yours on our KatharosNOW Facebook page so we can oooh and aww at them together. ☺