I noticed something while I was watching a sporting event a few weeks ago. I was watching a game and the team I wanted to win was losing. I decided to grab a Pepsi and suddenly the team I was cheering for started to do better and suddenly was winning. By this time I was done with my Pepsi, but I didn’t want to put my can down, because what if my team started to lose when I did?
This story is embarrassing because it’s true. But it’s harmless, right? At one level, holding a Pepsi can for good luck is silly and doesn’t change the outcome of a game; however, at a deeper level, what I thought about the Pepsi can was a window into my heart.
How Superstitions Work
Besides being irrational, superstitions are about worry and control. Let’s analyze what was going on in my heart and mind during that sporting event.
- First, I was worried about the future. I didn’t control the outcome of the game, and the outlook was bleak.
- Second, I noticed a correlation to my holding the Pepsi can and the results improving.
- Third, I held on to my can of Pepsi like a kind of charm in order to control the outcome of the game.
Our goal in turning to superstitions is to try to either bring good things our way or help us avoid the bad. We are often painfully aware of our lack of control and will do whatever it takes to make us think we have control—including hold on to a Pepsi can for “good luck.”
What’s the Big Deal?
Superstitions can be about anything. Don’t step on a crack, or you’ll break your mother’s back. Black cats bring bad luck. Number 13 is unlucky too! But a lucky rabbit’s foot might counter-balance the bad luck of your black cat. Knock on wood. Cross your fingers!
Even though superstitions seem harmless, they point to a heart that is not trusting God. We know we are being superstitious when we look to objects, patterns of speaking, or personal tics instead of God for help. When we cling to our superstitions, we rewrite Psalm 20:7 this way, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of our good luck charm.”
Instead of bringing us to the true Rock and true Salvation, superstitions keep our eyes on ourselves and what we are doing to keep control. But God calls us—for His glory and our good—to lift up our eyes to Him.
Hope for Worry-Warts
When we lift our eyes upon God, we remember that he hasn’t left us alone. God’s word gives us specific promises and tells us we have a God who provides, a God who is our true treasure, and a God who comforts.
1. Father is our Provider
Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount are a treasure trove of hope for those who worry. When we’re tempted to worry, Jesus tells us to look at creation:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these (Matthew 6:26–29).
We don’t have to rely on our lucky rabbit’s foot for good luck because we have a heavenly Father who cares for us, and because he cares for us, he provides for our needs.
2. Jesus is our Treasure
In this same context of worry, Jesus gives his disciples a surprising command, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:34). But what does seeking first the kingdom have to do with worry and superstition? Ed Welch explains,
Image: T G Talisman