Superstition is defined as ‘any belief or practice based upon one’s trust in luck or other irrational, unscientific, or supernatural forces.’ Whilst Christians definitely believe in a supernatural Being (God), there is no place for superstition in our faith. It might not be prudent to walk under a ladder if a window-cleaner is at work (because you might get wet!), but there is nothing inherently ‘wrong’ about doing this, just as there is no evidence that ‘Friday the 13th’ is any more fateful a day or date than any other or that black cats are lucky omens. Many superstitious practices are associated with pagan gods and therefore should not be embraced by those who live under God’s care and love.
Paul and Barnabas encountered the full force of superstition and idolatry in Lystra. (Acts 14:8-20) Some 50 years previously, the Latin poet Ovid had narrated in his Metamorphoses an ancient local legend, in which the supreme god (Jupiter to the Romans, Zeus to the Greeks) and his son Mercury (Hermes to the Greeks) once visited the hill country of Phrygia, disguised as mortal men. In their disguise, they sought hospitality but were rebuffed a thousand times. At last, they were offered lodging in a tiny cottage thatched with straw and reeds from the marsh. Here lived an elderly peasant couple called Philemon and Baucis, who entertained them out of their poverty. Later, the gods rewarded them, but destroyed by flood the homes which would not take them in. It is reasonable to suppose the people of Lystra were familiar with this story and were anxious not to suffer the same fate as the inhospitable Phrygians if the gods were to descend again, hence their reaction to the healing which they witnessed as a result of Paul and Barnabas’s arrival. Barnabas was identified as Zeus and Paul as Hermes, and it took considerable skill for the two missionaries to extricate themselves from the hero-worship which bordered on idolatry.
Their response to superstition was to point to the liberating truth from the living God: ‘We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.’ (Acts 14:15) Superstition is another form of bondage, another way the devil tries to trap us in fear and anxiety. It is ultimately worthless. The Christian faith points us to the living God who created the world, rather than leaving us bowing to multiple gods and goddesses who cannot do anything for us. Today, we can be freed from the paranoia of superstition and can live in confidence and hope because of our renewed relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.