Scriptures

Superstition

Introduction

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of superstitions which many people take seriously, sadly some Christians do too, although some without releasing it. I’ve heard Christians speaking about ‘touching wood’ when they want something ‘good’ to happen. I remember being in a congregational meeting one time and when we were discussing our future plans for the church, one brother said, ‘FINGERS CROSSED, God will bless our future efforts’.

Personally, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

What Is Superstition?

To be superstitious basically means your holding onto a belief that an action, or an object or even certain circumstances will affect another situation which you find yourself in. In other words, it’s the science of cause and effect, if you hold onto a certain superstitious belief, you belief that it can and will change certain events in your life, it’s kind of like having a good luck charm, to bring about ‘good luck’ and at the same time it help to avoid having ‘bad luck’.

In many countries, like Africa, India and other Eastern cultures, superstition is very popular and although many countries have them and practice them, some take it more seriously than others, even to the point where it takes over people’s lives and is used as a fear mechanism to control people’s lives.

Superstitious Examples

It may be useful to look at a few superstitious beliefs, see where they originated from, and try to understand why so many people believe in them. This will also help us understand why they still remain very popular today.

It’s bad luck to walk under a leaning ladder

The idea of walking under a leaning ladder is ‘bad luck’ originates from the ancient Egyptians. If you look at a ladder leaning against a wall, you will see that it creates a triangle shape. The Egyptians saw the shape of a triangle as very sacred, hence why their pyramids were shaped that way. The triangle represented the trinity of the gods and so if you passed through a triangle, this resulted in it becoming defiled.

In England in the 1600’s, criminals were forced to walk under a ladder on their way to the gallows and so walking under a ladder became synonymous with misfortune.

A broken mirror gives you seven years of bad luck

The idea of a broken mirror giving you seven years ‘back luck’ comes from the ancient Greeks who had people called ‘mirror seers’, they claimed they could tell you if you were going to live or die when you became ill. Basically what would happen was, they would take a mirror and dip it into water, the sick person was then asked to look into the glass, if their image appeared distorted, they were likely to die but if the image appeared clear, then that meant they would likely live.

When the Romans came on the scene, they believed that people’s health changed every seven years and so, they added a bit more to this superstition. They believed if a person’s image was distorted because of a broken mirror, that meant they would have seven years of ill-health and misfortune, rather than just outright death.

When you spill salt, toss some over your left shoulder to avoid bad luck

When you spill salt, you must toss some of over your left shoulder to avoid ‘bad luck’ is still a very popular superstition today. It was the ancient Sumerians who first took to reversing the bad luck of spilled salt by throwing a pinch of it over their left shoulders. As you can imagine this became a very popular superstition and quickly spread to other civilisations such as the Egyptians, the Assyrians and later, the Greeks.

We must remember that salt, especially as a seasoning agent for food, was a very valuable commodity in ancient times and still is today in some parts of the world. It was the Romans who introduced the saying, ‘they’re not worth their weight in salt’ when referring to a lack of a man’s work.

A black cat crossing your path is lucky or unlucky

Firstly, the idea of a black cat crossing your path being ‘lucky’ stems from the ancient Egyptians who revered all cats, not just black ones. Once again, this superstitious belief quickly spread, even to the shores of England.

It’s reported that King Charles I kept and treasured a black cat as a pet. Even when his pet cat died, it’s also reported that he mourned the loss of his cat because he lost his ‘good luck’. It wouldn’t take much for the English to believe this superstition because the very next day, he was arrested and charged with high treason.

Secondly, the idea of a black cat crossing your path being ‘unlucky’ stems from the middle ages, especially in other parts of Europe. Many people believed that black cats were the companions of witches, or witches disguised as black cats, which basically led to the belief that the devil was watching you.

We can see why black cats and witches are often portrayed together in films and why even today, people still associate a black cat with witchcraft.

Religion And Superstition

When we read through our Bibles and read about gods like Baal and Molech we often wonder why people could believe that such gods existed, but this was simply the superstitious beliefs of the time. The Egyptians worshipped almost anything that moved, including cats, they believed they were gods, the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Greeks continued with these beliefs and believed that there was a god for the moon, sun, rain, they believed the gods were responsible for good growing seasons, fertility, and harvests.

Years later, even the native American Indians were famous for their ‘rain dancing’ when there was a drought. The Catholic church claim ‘the saints’ have the power to act on behalf of a petitioner. When you think about it, all superstitious beliefs rely totally on unseen forces, hence why many atheists and agnostics believe that all Christians are superstitious.

Old Testament Example

In the Old Testament we read about many superstitious beliefs but let me share with you one example which is found in 1 Kings 18:20-40 where we read about the great lengths which Elijah went to show the priests of Baal, how foolish their superstitious beliefs were and how the God is Israel was real. Most people know this story very well, and when the priest’s god failed to act, Elijah goes on to mock them.

‘At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or travelling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ 1 Kings 18:27

After numerous attempts at calling upon their god with no results, Elijah mocks them and goes on to pray to the God of Israel, who then acts immediately. This showed the Israelites how foolish they were for having faith in their superstitious beliefs.

‘Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.’ 1 Kings 18:38

New Testament Example

When we turn our attention to the New Testament, we see again many examples of superstitions practices. The most famous one is probably found in Acts 17 when Paul was on Mars Hill in Athens.

‘Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So, you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.’ Acts 17:22-23

The people of Athens were so ‘religious’, please note the actual word used is ‘superstitious’ in the Greek, that they made an altar to a potential god, just in case they unintentionally offended someone they didn’t know about. I love the way Paul used this altar ‘to an unknown god’ to go on and speak about the one True God they didn’t know about, Acts 17:24-31. As a result of his preaching, many people turned away from their superstitious beliefs to having real faith in the Creator of the universe.

‘Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.’ Acts 17:34

Later when Festus speaks to Agrippa concerning the apostle Paul, he said to Agrippa, that the Jews didn’t charge him with any of the crimes he expected, ‘instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion (superstition) and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.’ Acts 25:19

The Dangers Of Superstition

The dangers of holding any superstitious belief is that people allow those beliefs to manipulate their lives, they allow them to control a part of their life which is beyond their personal control. In a nutshell that’s what superstition is, it’s trying to control the uncontrollable. Sadly, many people live their lives that way, that’s why shamans and witch-doctors are so popular in some cultures.

All superstition does is take people away from relying on God every day of their lives, they encourage us to trust in people, objects and the things we do so that things will go well in our lives.

As Christians we must ask ourselves, who is control of our lives? Do we need animal parts, icons, crucifixes, salt, four leaf clovers, lucky charms to bring us ‘luck’? Do we put our trust in horoscopes, the stars, the moon or planets to show us what to do?

Conclusion

The reality is that Jesus alone can give us the security and salvation we need, not the stars, the cards or the philosophies of people, 2 Kings 21:6 / Revelation 21:27. To rely on superstition rather than relying on Christ for protection and guidance in our lives is sinful. If Jesus is powerful enough to ‘sustain all things by his powerful word,’ Hebrews 1:3, then He’s certainly powerful enough to save us and give us direction for our lives.

As Christians we should be able to see through all these superstitious beliefs because we now know and serve God, and we look to Him alone for His blessings and guidance, the question is, are we willing to surrender our lives to Him?

The Bible tells us if we have given our lives to Christ, then we are promised that He will protect us and guide us. Superstitious beliefs often promote fear in people’s lives, but as Christians, we don’t have to fear the devil, demons, animals or inanimate objects around us because God wants us to have a life free from fear.

‘The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?’ Psalm 27:1

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."

John 5:24

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