“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” —Psalm 119:97
At least 154 people were killed and 149 others were injured in a crowd surge at a packed Halloween festival Saturday night in Seoul, South Korea. In other weekend news, Somalia’s president said at least one hundred people were killed Saturday in two terrorist car bombings, though the death toll could rise. An overcrowded suspension bridge collapsed yesterday in India, killing at least 134 people.
And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul is recovering from surgery after being attacked early Friday morning by a hammer-wielding intruder at their San Francisco home. Paul Pelosi suffered a fractured skull and injuries to his hands and right arm, but he is expected to recover fully.
Oscar Wilde observed, “The real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning.” In a world encompassed with such daily suffering, it is not surprising that we would invent holidays like Halloween and station them throughout the year.
The typical US year has ten such holidays, beginning with New Year’s Day and ending with Christmas. The Catholic liturgical year celebrates the lives of various saints on more than 120 different days across the year.
Some of our holidays serve a diversionary purpose as they distract us from the challenges we face. Others serve a more edifying purpose as they focus on faith, country, and family. But here’s a fact you may not have considered regarding America’s holidays, both sacred and secular: not one of them is found in the Bible.
Halloween and other nonbiblical holidays
Nowhere does Scripture command us to set apart a specific day for observing Jesus’ birth or his resurrection, much less our other holidays. Thanksgiving comes closest, though the biblical command is to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), not just one day a year.
Many of our holidays are purely secular, as with Halloween, while church tradition has created others such as tomorrow’s All-Saints’ Day (“All Hallows’ Day”), for which today is the “eve” (“All Hallows’ Eve” or “Halloween”).
If you want your holidays to come directly from Scripture, you will need to follow the Jewish religious year. It includes Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost), Sukkot (Tabernacles), and the High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Each is required and described by the Torah. While the Jews have added others through tradition (such as Hanukkah), their calendar centers on biblical prescriptions.
Here’s my point: events and decisions in our lives fall into three categories—biblical, nonbiblical, and unbiblical.
Halloween is nonbiblical: God’s word does not command it, which would make it biblical, or forbid it, which would make it unbiblical. However, Scripture does teach us what would be biblical to do today, such as using the day for church outreach events, getting to know your neighbors so you can build relationships for the gospel, and spending fun time together as a family.
And it teaches us what would be unbiblical to do today, such as engaging in occult practices (Leviticus 19:31) or anything that would glorify Satan, “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44) who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
When obedience was a pleasure
The same principle applies to much of life. For example, God’s word obviously does not directly address the digital technology by which I am creating and distributing today’s Daily Article. But it does encourage biblical uses of technology such as internet discipleship, and it warns us against unbiblical uses of technology such as pornography.
How can we be sure we are doing nonbiblical things in biblical ways and that we are avoiding unbiblical things at all costs? It would be wonderful if we could simply follow our instincts and do what comes naturally to us. But this is a privilege we left behind when we left Eden so long ago.
In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis observed: “Paradisal man always chose to follow God’s will. In following it he also gratified his own desire, both because all the actions demanded of him were, in fact, agreeable to his blameless inclination, and also because the service of God was itself his keenest pleasure, without which as their razor edge all joys would have been insipid to him.
“The question ‘Am I doing this for God’s sake or only because I happen to like it?’ did not then arise, since doing things for God’s sake was what he chiefly ‘happened to like.’ His God-ward will rode his happiness like a well-managed horse, whereas our will, when we are happy, is carried away in the happiness as in a ship racing down a swift stream. Pleasure was then an acceptable offering to God because offering was a pleasure.”
How can we return to such a blessed condition?
Acting into feeling
The psalmist declared to God, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). “Love” translates a Hebrew word meaning “to desire, to delight in, to breathe after.” The word translated “meditation” refers to one’s “occupation or thoughtful contemplation.” The two phrases reinforce each other: the more we are passionate about God’s word, the more time we will spend studying and applying it to our lives, and the more we study and apply God’s word, the more passion we will develop for it.
Counselors say we should “act into feeling” rather than “feeling into acting.” If you don’t feel love for your spouse, do what you would do if you did: go on a date, give them something you know they would enjoy, and so on. The more you do what love does, the more you may feel what love feels.
So, with today’s holiday and every other nonbiblical event or decision you encounter, spend time seeking scriptural truth and wisdom. Take note of what would be biblical and unbiblical to do. Pray for God’s Spirit to help you do the former and refuse the latter. Then do what you know you should do.
The more you live biblically, the more you will want to live biblically.
And you will obey Billy Graham’s admonition, wisdom that is especially appropriate on Halloween: “Stay close to Christ—because the closer you are to him, the farther away you are from the devil.”
Will you be closer to Christ today than you were yesterday?