• Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

Superstition

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33NKJV


This week we look at the next section of Question 109 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?” It gives the answer, “The sins forbidden in the second commandment are… the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense[sic] whatsoever.” Last week we considered idolatry of the heart. This week we look at the sin of superstition.

When I was a boy of about ten or twelve years old, I desperately wanted a “lucky” rabbit’s foot. It seemed to me like every other boy in town or at school already had one. They were all of the same manufacture: cheaply, mass produced key-chains, fastened to a short fur covered object in any one of a variety of vibrant colors. The wise and discriminating lad always felt through the fur at the end to make sure you could feel its “claws” before purchasing. You needed to weed out cheap imitations, and an “artificial” rabbit’s foot just would not do! At some point I finally got one. I remember it vividly. It was dark forest green and very soft with a short gold-colored chain attached to one end. I prized it as something very valuable and took care not to get it dirty or damage it. By then all the cool boys (like me) were attaching them to a belt loop over one of the front pockets of our jeans, so we could deftly slip it in the pocket when necessary. I remember wondering whether or not it really would bring me good luck when I carried it! And I have no doubt but that, though outwardly I scoffed at the idea, deep down I’m quite certain I believed it could help, if even just a little bit. As I got older, and especially as I read Huckleberry Finn, I learned all sorts of ways of courting “good luck” and warding off “bad luck.” Most of them seemed silly to me (throwing salt, knocking on wood, avoiding black cats and ladders), though the mystery of “luck” remained. Then there were the horoscopes, lucky numbers, fortune gum or cookies, etc. I knew a girl who claimed she could read palms and another one who had a Ouija board, though it did not “work” the one time I tried it with her.  

Most everyone will say such things are harmless, and even fun to play around with, or that they do not really believe it and “don’t mean anything by it.” And yet everyone I’ve ever known who regularly dabbles in these things does give them some level of credence. They desire to check their horoscopes and feel better once they do. They are inwardly pleased when their lucky numbers come up in their daily activities and consider it to be a good omen: “It’s a good day because the grocery bill total at the checkout was my lucky number.” Or like that twelve year old boy I mentioned earlier, they are just a little more confident when they have their lucky talisman with them. And whenever something good happens when I’ve courted good luck through my chosen devices, or if something bad happens when I’ve neglected to, my unconscious faith in these foolish and senseless objects and behaviors grows.  

And therein lies the sin. Not that an idol is anything or that horoscopes, rabbits’ feet, tarot cards, and etc. are anything or have any power whatsoever, but all such activity is born out of a lack of faith and trust in God. Consider. God is sovereign over all things, over everything in my life and outside my life, over the past, the present, and the future. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s will (Matt. 10:29). Moreover, God tells me to trust Him and live for Him, and He gives me instruction in His Word as to how I am to live for Him, and His Word is sufficient for every situation in life, for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). God has even revealed to me the big picture as to what will happen in the future: how the eternal state will be ushered in with Christ’s return, the bodily resurrection, the final judgment, etc., but God has not revealed to me every little thing about what will happen tomorrow. I’m supposed to trust God for tomorrow and live by His Word and accept whatever comes by right living because I know that He is in control and He loves me. Thus, every superstitious attempt to know or control the future is an act of unbelief in God’s knowledge, power, or goodness. Even if such things could tell us the future they would be sinful, how much more when they are random acts of foolishness? Consider the insult to God when I roll the bones to determine my decisions rather than simply obey His Word. May God forgive us for the lack of faith in His loving sovereignty, which leads to superstitious behavior, and may He cause us to grow in trusting in Him alone for the future.           

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)

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