What Do Donkeys and Halloween Have in Common?

Happy Halloween! Or should I say Happy Satan's Day? Or Happy I Love Fall and Carving Pumpkins Day!

Oh, the controversy and opinions that come forth from believers around things like Halloween or birth control or how to school your kids or alcohol or politics. Who besides me cannot wait for this election to be over? The heated opinion throwing drives me bananas! Everybody is certain they are right (or left - ha!).

But I digress.

Last weekend, we were taking a very indirect route to the mall (so indirect that we eventually just changed our destination, because our shortcut wasn't actually short to our original destination...flexibility is what I call it) and Jack was perusing one of a set of educational books we were given over the summer. Our lovely front seat adult conversation was interrupted by the question:

"What's an ass?"

Me: "I'm sorry. What did you say?"

Jack: "What's an ass?"

Me: (thinking) He must just be misreading that word...which makes no sense because yesterday he was correctly reading words like licorice. "Spell it for me. I'm not sure which word you mean."

Jack: "A-S-S."

Me: "Okay. Yep, that's the word. Is there a picture of a donkey?" (thinking) Please tell me there's a picture of a donkey on that page.

Jack: "Yeah. That looks like a donkey."

Me: "Yep. That's another word for donkey. But we're just going to use donkey, okay?"

Now, in my book, ass is a bad word. I don't use that word. (Now, if I'm in an almost car wreck or a giant insect falls on my head, I might be heard uttering another innappropriate word, but that's neither here nor there.) But I knew not to punish my kid for saying it, because to him it was just a word on a page. It held no meaning for him and there was nothing evil in his heart that caused him to say that word. I did, however, instruct him to choose another word to use instead because of what that word means to other people.

Chris and I wrestle with topics like family planning, Halloween, church attendance (I mean we go, but I am so tempted to judge others who don't seem as committed). I struggle to see what's right for me from God's point of view and I fight the urge to judge others for their actions and views. We weigh the call for grace with the call to holiness. We debate our choices and our reaction to the choices of others who call themselves followers of Christ.

Let's face it. There are often two camps and both are equally wrong:

1. The Pharisees - We love rules and we think our list is right and whoever doesn't abide by them is on the highway to hell.

2. The Carnal - We say we love Jesus and live under grace, but really we just need to feel good about enjoying all the world has to offer while still having our ticket to heaven in our back pocket.

Jesus isn't a fan of either camp, but how often do we find ourselves veering to one extreme or the other?

The Pharisees were all about the Sabbath. Sounds like a good thing, right? Of course the Sabbath was meant to be a good thing. God came up with it and he's in the habit of only coming up with good things. However, people (and Satan) are masters of twisting good things to make them utterly evil.

So the Pharisees were thrilled to catch Jesus' disciples picking grain in the field one day to fill their empty tummies. "Awesome! We caught them breaking God's Sabbath red-handed! If Jesus loves God so much, he can't deny that breaking the Sabbath is wrong."

When those Holy Rollers called the ragtag disciples out on the whole grain-picking deal, Jesus didn't agree and give the disciples a slap on the wrist for going against the day God had instituted as the day they should stop to worship and honor him. He answers, "And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."

Jesus says to the high and mighty, "You've missed the point once again, guys. It's not that this day is so much more important than any other. It's about your heart and its love and priority."

Then he proceeds to show them what he was all about, and he heals a guy on the Sabbath in the synagogue. He's showing them by his words and his actions where God's heart is. It's not in the rules, it's in the relationship. What were the two things Jesus chose as the most important? Love God. Love others.

God made the Sabbath to remind us to love him. He knew men were easily distracted and needed a weekly mandate to stop and reset their minds and hearts. But we can be just as easily distracted in our minds while our bodies are going through the motions of the rules God set in place.

But we're also quick to claim as recipients of God's grace that we don't have to abide by the rules, but abuse the freedom we have in Christ. Is our enjoyment of living outside the law motivated by a love for God and a desire for his glory? Or is it just selfish and worldly?

Oh, we so often miss the point.

Tonight is Halloween. In our home, we do not make a big deal about it. Chris and I don't care for it because of its origins and the evil that so easily seeps into this day. This year, Halloween happens to fall on a Wednesday, so we will go to church as we do every Wednesday. However, I have a feeling we'll be just about the only ones there and that has been a source of annoyance to me.

One of my good friends will use this night to trick-or-treat in her neighborhood with her kids. Tons of people will be there and they'll try to use the opportunity to show love to those around them. However, I have a feeling that many people won't even give God or others a second thought tonight.

So which of us loves God more? Which of us is really holy and which is not?

If my family were to go to church tonight with self-righteous, judgmental hearts toward our fellow Christians who are trick-or-treating, we'd be dead wrong. We'd be sinning.

If my friend's family were to go trick-or-treating without even considering what the Lord would have them to do or how they could seek to impact the lives of others around them, but only because it's what they want to do and by golly, they'll do it, then I suppose they might be in the wrong.

(Please understand, this only applies to areas which are not directly outlined in Scripture. Some things are just plain sin.)

Because, with Jesus, it always comes back to the heart. Going to church can be good or bad. Trick-or-treating can be good or bad. The word ass can be harmless or horrifying. It's all about our intentions and our motivations.

So before you judge people for dressing up and asking for free candy and before you dress up and ask for free candy without even considering the Lord and his desires, stop and look at your heart. Ask the Lord what he would have you to do. And then do it, with his honor and glory at the forefront of your heart and mind.

And if you want to call a donkey an ass...okay, please don't, because it just sounds ugly. You can blame the Ugly Word Judge who decided it would now be a cuss word instead of a word we use when referring to a hee-hawing horse with long ears. Apparently, whoever he is, he's a Republican.


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