Halloween is on our doorsteps. We’ve just celebrated the Harvest Festival, and had a blast doing it. Churches have moved away from using the term Halloween, instead opting for a more inclusive "Harvest Festival." We give lip service to the idea of celebrating the harvest, but we endorse disguises, candy, masks, and pumpkin carving. I don’t think we’re being disingenuous and I don’t even think we’re being hypocritical. We may just be removing, or avoiding, some of the toxicity of the Halloween name. If you’re like my family, come October 31, you’ll find yourself going door to door, dressed up in an outfit, collecting candy that you really shouldn’t eat, really don’t want to want, but gladly eating and putting off for another day that chance to fast, burn calories, exercise, or eat healthy. We’ll put off our wiser thoughts and throw on garments to join our kids because it’s fun, it’s what we’ve known, it’s (usually) harmless, and it’s about our kids.
Yet, there’s another side to Halloween that allows us an opportunity to hear from our Lord—it’s not condemnation and not even a reflection on our times of fun. It’s in the deceitful, disguises we wear. Paul, in the letter to the Thessalonians, writes, “Our message to you does not spring from deceit or impure motives, or trickery, but [to share with you] and please God who tests our hearts. (I Thessalonians 2:4)” Paul is convincing these believers in Thessalonica that they are who they say they are. Paul and his colleagues aren’t wearing masks and are not manipulating folks. They are being completely transparent, honest, and genuine in their message. Paul is writing that he’s not there to impress them, get their vote, have them buy his product, etc. He is only there to be real—and God can prove that he is authentic because God knows his heart.
How nice would it be if we could trust the spokespeople in our lives. Yet, what are we surrounded with? Election commercials that spin facts, ignore transparency, and manipulate us so that we vote for men or women that we don’t even know. Advertisements that provoke us to buy products we don’t need because they claim to fill a void in our lives. Public officials who are less than honest about the way they represent us. Respected community leaders who take advantage of others for their own gain leaving a community broken and hurting.
We could lift Paul’s battles with authenticity and with his desire for trust from the Thessalonians and drop them in today’s papers, and our neighbors would be none the wiser. Why? Because this struggle with being authentic and real, transparent and honest, continues today. It’s a conflict that rules in the hearts of men because at our core, we want all that we can get. Often, we don’t care who we hurt to get what we want. It’s why elections sling so much mud, corporations deny its complicit policies that overlook hazardous products, and people damage others’ lives.
In Matthew 5:37, Jesus makes a statement saying, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’” He knew that too often we’d be inauthentic in our lives—that we’d be trying to squirm out of being honest. So He simply directs us to be truthful in what we say. When we say “Yes,” let us mean “Yes.” Taking this thinking further, let us be transparent in all we do. If we mean what we say and do what we say, then we have no reason to hide and nothing to fear. Then, it’s easy to let our yeses be yeses and our noes be noes. So, after the conclusion of trick or treating, take off that full mask you may be wearing and let us see you for who you really are—even if it’s for the very first time. You’ll love yourself more and so will we.