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Faith and superstitions

by Jacob Ninan

What Is Superstition?

A superstition is an irrational belief which originates from ignorance or fear. We usually associate superstitions with religions which are based on fear of the unknown and man’s attempts to appease supernatural powers. We also think of superstitions in terms of belief in omens, auspicious and inauspicious times, astrology and similar beliefs, rituals to ward off evil or to bring blessings, magic charms, special arrangements of rooms and buildings to bring luck, etc. What we may not realise is that many Christians including the evangelical ones also have their superstitions! Let us look at some of them.

The Cross As A Charm

Do we think that by keeping a cross in the house, around our neck or in our pocket, or making the sign of the cross can ward off evil? This idea has been popularised by movies where evil spirits, vampires, etc., are scared away by a show of the cross! But the devil is not frightened by a piece of wood or metal, however it is shaped! Just keeping a model or picture of a cross is not the panacea for spiritual warfare. The equipment we need for spiritual battles is given in Eph.6:13-18. Also keeping a cross around our neck or in our pocket is not the same as carrying the cross which Jesus has asked us to do (Lk.9:23). What we need to do is to place ourselves spiritually on the ‘cross’ where our will can be denied and put to death in order to do God’s will. By the way, the cross is also not an ornament with which to beautify ourselves or church buildings, because the original one stood for a most cruel form of death.

The Bible As A Magic Power

Some people sleep with the Bible under their pillow in order to keep away bad dreams! The paper book has no power. The power is in the words God has spoken and inspired the writers with. When we believe and obey them, they change our lives and give us authority. But the devil is not scared of the paper book. Some people think that the paper book itself is holy. But even if we accidentally let our feet touch it, perhaps in our sleep, we do not have to think that we have committed a sacrilege. The sacrilege is if we trample God’s word by taking it lightly, despising it or disobeying it.

Bible Verses To Bring Luck

The Old Testament people were instructed to keep the written words of God all over the place and even on their body and dress. But that was to remind them to obey them. But what is the use if we keep Bible verses all around our house on beautiful plaques while we dishonour God in the same house with our words and action? Can sticking God’s promises on cars and bikes preserve us? We may fail even if we wear a badge that says, “Jesus never fails,” or “Jesus saves,” because our success or failure cannot be influenced by objects that we carry around. That would be just like tying a holy string around our hands or neck!

Agreeing In Prayer

Jesus said that if two of us agreed on earth concerning things we asked for, we would get them (Mt.18:19). Does that mean I can call my friend and say, “Please come here and agree with me about this thing that I want to pray for”? Not at all. It will not work. What Jesus said was basically about our faith. I have faith when God speaks to me in my heart (Rom.10:17). If you also hear the same thing from God then we are united in faith, and that is a guarantee that what we trust God for will be given to us.

Multiplying Prayer

It is foolish to imagine that by getting many people to pray for something or by praying for something for a long time we can get God to do things for us. Do we think that the volume of prayer has something to do with the results? Jesus said that this would not work (Mt.6:7). Essentially it is the will of God that is going to be done. When He decides to do something, only then is our prayer going to be answered. Otherwise, we can shout aloud, make declarations, ‘name it and claim it,’ quote verses to suit our convenience or anything like that. God is not going to be moved. Remember that the best prayer is when we do it according to His will (1Jn.5:14).

Sprinkling The Blood

We know that in Egypt the angel of death passed over the houses of the people of Israel when he saw the blood of the lamb sprinkled over the doorposts. We also know that God now passes over our sins when we go to Him in repentance and trusting in the blood of the Lamb that was shed for us. But this does not mean that we can proclaim the blood of the Lamb over our house or any other place and expect the devil to be scared to come near it! The devil is not afraid of places or objects. He can be there even in the midst of a church with praise and worship going on, to tempt people, for example, with dirty thoughts! We cannot make our bikes or cars accident-proof by declaring the blood of Jesus over it!

Words Of Faith

There is virtue in avoiding words of unbelief and speaking out words of faith. There is authority in confessing with our mouth what we believe in our heart (Rom.10:10). But it is superstition to believe that our words have power in themselves to make things happen. This is becoming very common among believers. When we speak things according to the will of God, He makes things happen. But even if we quote words of Scripture, nothing will happen if God is not the One who prompted us to speak.

Walking Around Places

Why do we keep imitating the external things of the Old Testament without understanding and following the meanings behind them? Certainly the walls of Jericho fell down when the people of Israel went around and shouted praises to God. But does that mean that we can walk around a plot or a building and claim that place for God? Jesus said that the time had come when God would not be in buildings or places but in the hearts of those who worshipped Him in spirit and truth (Jn.4:21-24).

Holy Oil, Prayer Shawls, Etc.

The New Testament has shifted from things and places to the heart. It is not places that are to be kept holy now but our heart. There is no special power or magic we can get by blessing oil, handkerchiefs, prayer shawls, water from the Jordan, soil from Israel, models of the tabernacle or the lamp stand with seven spouts, or even wedding rings. Why do we still go for such things instead of taking heed to our hearts? Yes, God does some extraordinary miracles at certain times, such as when handkerchiefs from Paul were used to heal people at a distance. But that is not for us to form doctrines with or to imitate, especially to make money from gullible people.

Nothing that I have written here is meant to hurt anyone except the money changers and the false prophets. All I want to do is to help us to realise that our focus should be on our heart attitudes and relationships with God and man, and not on objects, forms or rituals. It is also possible that sometimes God honours such external acts, when they come from sincere hearts of faith, in just the way as parents accept crude acts of creativity or demonstration of love from their small children. But He certainly does not want mature believers to behave like that.

Faith vs. Superstition

Superstition is based on ignorance or lack of true knowledge of God and His ways. But faith is based on God. Faith is based on the knowledge of who God is and how and why He does things. Faith is also something that God gives to us and not something that we can generate. We can, at best, respond in faith to what He speaks to us.

Superstition is also based on the fear of the unknown. Astrologers and other similar conmen make great use of this factor. But faith is based on trust and confidence in God and His revealed word. We are willing to leave the unknown in the faithful hands of our God who knows and plans our future.

The New Testament, which is the revelation of God as spirit and truth in contrast to the Old Testament which operated in forms and rituals, shows us the true meaning of God’s laws and acts. Now it is not places and things that are to be kept holy, but our spirit, and our relationship with God is in spirit and truth and not in external forms and rituals. Let us not, as the apostle Paul warns us, get caught again in ritualistic practices even if they are done using New Testament words (Col.2:20-23).

-- Published in the Light of Life magazine, January 2009

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