We read in the book of Proverbs, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:33; ESV).” For the modern vernacular, replace the concept of “the lot” with “dice,” and you get a feel for what the proverb is trying to tell us. There are quite a few applications of the saying, but one which we’ll make today is this: you don’t need luck if you have God.
Superstitions about luck abound, and more than a few people find themselves drawn into the observations of these various beliefs. Whether it is eating cabbage on New Year’s Day in order to gain wealth, refusing to cross paths with a black cat, carrying around some sort of luck talisman, blowing out birthday candles, knocking on wood or hanging horseshoes around your property, the culture at large urges us to observe these small rituals in an effort to bring better fortune.
To be blunt, Christians should refuse to participate.
Paul reminded Timothy, as a preacher and as a Christian, “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith (1 Timothy 1:3-4; ESV).” The myths and speculations Paul mentions were various superstitions of the day believed by both Jews and Gentiles which had a potential of creeping into the lives and doctrines of Christians.
In both Old and New Testaments, God warns His people against witchcraft, spiritualism, and related practices, each of which share a common theme: they appeal to some power or authority other than God in an attempt to either avert the bad or cause the good. These perceived powers can take any number of forms, including nature spirits, fairies, the dead, demons, or even angels. Each of these have at one time or another been venerated, feared, worshipped and prayed to – all in an effort to sway said figures to work on behalf of the applicant.
Some of the Jews, for example, had a proclivity for appealing to angels. This had the appeal of having some scriptural backing, in and so far as the word of God speaks to the existence of angels. But angels, no matter how real or powerful, are not God and God’s people should not be worshipping or praying to angels. Thus the message of Christ to His church rebukes such thinking telling us instead, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels,… (Colossians 2:18a; ESV; cf. Hebrews 1; Revelation 19:10, 22:9)”
One thing to ask ourselves, when we are tempted to give in to some such superstition is this: who or what are we appealing to? For instance, when one is told to eat cabbage on New Year’s Day in order to bring luck for the coming year, the sensible question is, who is going to give us this luck? Are we asking it of the mindless universe? Are we appealing to God, and if so, why does God care what you eat on New Year’s Day? In truth, the cabbage is used as a tool in a practice that is technically known as sympathetic magic: the idea that a thing can be influenced through the use of an object that represents that thing – in this case the cabbage is the stand-in for money. Such practices are completely at odds with Christianity. If you have a genuine need, the Bible tells us to pray, not to seek out some other superstitious avenue in an effort to influence life events.
Likewise, when we try to avert “bad luck,” a reasonable question to ask is, who or what are we afraid of? For instance, if you think that a black cat crossing your path is going to cause you to have such bad luck, where does this luck come from? Evil spirits? The Devil? The machinations of the universe? The history of superstitions surrounding black cats is long and varied, but boils down to being afraid of either demons or fairies, take your pick. But, putting aside the scientific reality that black in cats is a matter of genetics, not something supernatural, why should a Christian be afraid? The Bible teaches that our God is more powerful and is quite capable of protecting us. “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4; ESV).
If you are a Christian, you have God. And if you have God, you don’t need luck. You don’t have to be afraid of bad luck. You don’t have to hope for good luck. You just need to trust God and pray.
The church of Christ invites you to come worship and study with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.