Wishing someone the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day is a harmless bit of fun.
But I’m sure St. Patrick won’t be happy that he’s associated more with a four-leaf clover than Christianity’s triumph over that very kind of superstition.
When humans talk about luck, good or bad, it’s a catchall for everything that happens without apparent reason, cause, or necessity.
Before Christianity, people believed our destiny was ultimately controlled by unknown forces, like fate or fortune, or gods making arbitrary decisions. Man was caught in a mysterious, cruel game of cosmic payback or reward. Every event in the unseen order of things was the result of offending a god or pleasing a god.
The rise of science put math in the driver’s seat, and with it the idea of blind chance, mere mathematical probability. Good fortune became a brief, thrilling interruption from the everyday grind. Why else are lotteries so popular among the poor and disadvantaged?
Christianity represented a radical third way of thinking — that the way life works and fits together is beyond our understanding, but it’s ordered by the God of creation toward a particular end.
There’s simply no such thing as luck for the Christian. The whole Bible paints a vivid picture of God’s total control, whether as a direct result of what He causes to happen or the indirect result of what He allows to happen.
Every flip of the coin is at God’s command (Proverbs 16:33), and not even a tiny creature like a sparrow lives or dies outside of God’s will (Matthew 10:26-33).
A Chance To See Differently
What’s most fascinating about the Bible is how much God uses what we see as chance and randomness for His purposes.
My favorite bit of “bad luck” in the Bible is the death of wicked king Ahab (1 Kings 22.) Neither concealing his identity as an ordinary soldier, nor staying back from the frontlines where kings battle, could stop a stray arrow from hitting him in the chest!
More curiously, God at times allows the casting of lots — a practice that appears at least 30 times in Scripture — to serve as a special way for believers to seek the ultimate will of God! Lots are used to uncover Achan’s sin (Joshua 7:10-26) in the Old Testament, and the replacement for Judas among the apostles in the New Testament (Acts 1:23-26.)
God obviously doesn’t approve of coin flips to find out what He wants us to do. We have the Bible for that! What seems to be happening is that God draws specific attention to chance and randomness to shatter the illusion that they exist.
The Good Fortune of God’s Providence
God isn’t only interested in displaying His sovereignty and power. That would make Him no different from any other of the mythic gods of old. God has a far greater purpose than that.
In pulling back the veil over our lives, He wants to offer us a special relief and refuge — the emotional safety we find in the ever-present care of a loving, heavenly Father. God wants us to cling to Him through good and bad, whether we understand what is happening or not.
picture God winking at you and saying, “Aren’t you glad I’m the one in control of all things?”
Ultimately, God is preparing our hearts for rescue through Jesus. How many events in the Bible had to come together for the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, through whom God helps us grasp the magnitude of His great Fatherly love!
In Romans 8:28, God makes the incredible promise to works all things, whether seemingly good or bad, together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
How much better is this picture of reality than trying to get “favor from the gods” through superstitious acts or religious works? How much better is this view of life than a world captive to pure chaos and will-to-power!
The Thrill of Life Without Risk
Neither the despair of a world without meaning, nor the thrill of spinning a roulette wheel, are any match for the unspeakable joy of God’s providence.
This is the glory of a risk-free life: Seek God’s will, make a choice in good faith with Scripture and common wisdom, then let your heart celebrate that you won’t ever find yourself on the losing end of any decision.
So if you cross cross paths with a black cat or walk under a ladder today, don’t worry about bad luck. Instead, picture God winking at you and saying, “Aren’t you glad I’m the one in control of all things?”