Several years ago I worked with a ministry team that travelled and supported churches on three different Native American reservations. On a reservation in Oklahoma we discovered that an owl had been seen by a person in the small town we were visiting. People were scared. There is a superstition among many native people that three people will die if an owl is seen. One person had already died. They expected two more people to die. We did a lot of praying.
The Bible is full of warnings to God’s people that they should avoid any superstition. Why? God does not ask people to avoid harmless behaviors, so why superstition?
Superstition attributes power to something other than God. It is denying the need for God by giving power to powerless objects or activities. Superstition replaces God.
I believe that superstition can give power to evil. If I believe that an owl will bring death to my town, then I allow the devil to do just that. If I believe a broken mirror will bring bad luck, I might be in for some bad luck simply because I believe it. We see eveidence of this concept in very superstitious cultures.
There can be a more insidious problem though. “We drift toward superstition and call it faith.” Even within the church we attribute power to things that do not deserve it.
We talk about a particular song having power. We think holding a crucifix gives more power to an exorcism. We think that fasting will make our prayer requests come true. Do not misunderstand. I do believe that music, crosses, and fasting are important parts of our faith, but there is not power in them. There is power in God.
I once had a girl show me a bottle of anointing oil that was made of olive oil from Israel with flecks of gold in it. (This was about the time when stories were circulating about gold dust falling from heaven during certain church meetings.) This item had come from a Christian book store. The girl with the bottle of oil said that she got the chills when she held it. This is attaching power, which should be God’s alone, to an inanimate object. It is superstition, and it is dangerously close to magic and idolatry.
Superstition looks like real faith, but it is not. Superstition allows me to be in control instead of God. If I think that I can invoke the power of God at my will, I eliminate the need to rely on God.
Be on the lookout for superstition masquerading as faith. It is quite deceptive. It is very easy for us to slide from faith to superstition.