Across the globe the seemingly harmless Irish tradition of having to wear green on March 17 so the luck of the Irish will be with you has saturated our society. What's all the fuss over a man called St. Patrick that has resulted in widespread partying and celebration?
Even more widespread is the concept of luck, a seemingly supernatural force that swings the odds of circumstances in people's favor or against them. Is this acceptable from a biblical perspective? Should we be wishing others "Good luck"?
As St. Patrick's Day comes around, it's a good time to take a hard look at luck.
Throughout the past 1, 500 or so years, traditions have grown, folklore has spread, and "luck" has sprouted in our everyday language. The leprechaun and icons like the color green, the shamrock and the pot o' gold have all come to be associated with the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.
Legend states that St. Patrick used the shamrock or three-leaved clover to explain the Trinity. Its three leaves supposedly represented the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Eventually, the custom was adopted of wearing a shamrock on his feast day. (The Trinity doctrine, however, is unbiblical—for more information, request our free booklet Is God a Trinity?)
A shamrock is different from a four-leaf clover. According to Celtic tradition, when a four-leaf clover is found, it is said to represent God's grace, with the four leaves standing for faith, hope, love and luck.
Ironically, the real Patrick would probably have frowned on the traditions associated with his feast day—as well as the holiday itself.
What's with luck?
Of course, the concept of luck or fortune is not exclusive to Irish tradition. We find it throughout human history and throughout the world today.
We now hear phrases like "good luck with the job interview," or "good luck on that test." While many deem this merely an expression of hoping for the best outcome, not really believing in luck, others take the concept of luck more seriously.
Some things associated with luck seem harmless, like wishing on a star, shooting stars, wishing wells, lucky trinkets or fairies. But there are underlying issues here that need to be raised.
Over the years luck has become like a god in society. Luck seems to decide things like your fate, car accidents, test scores, the job hunt, pay raises or even the answer you'll be given about that date you want to go on this Saturday night. People believe luck controls things and that it provides different opportunities for different people. Decisions are even based on it. Consider that many skyscrapers have no 13th floor—as 13 is considered unlucky.
No luck with the Bible
Looking to the Bible, we find that it gives no credibility to luck. In the first of the Ten Commandments, God states, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3). The intent of His command here is that nothing is to take a higher priority in our lives than Him! This first command warns us to not accept a religion or philosophy that teaches that our life and well-being originate or depend on anything other than the one true God.
As He often does, God colorfully portrays the utter foolishness of making gods of wood and stone, but the biblical nations of ancient Israel and Judah manufactured as many fake deities as the number of cities in the land of Judah (Jeremiah 2:27-28). "See if they can save you in the time of your trouble!" God taunted them and modern mankind (compare verse 28). Today our peoples still trust in worthless and inanimate things to save us—such as weapons, money and even actual idols by seeing power in crosses, religious statues and good luck charms.
God even laments over His people rejecting Him "and offering food and wine to the gods you call ‘Good Luck' and ‘Fate'" (Isaiah 65:11, Contemporary English Version). Any credit to luck is really a form of idolatry.
No luck at all
Maybe you've heard people say, "I know luck doesn't exist, but good luck anyway!" Perhaps they're conceding that there may be luck after all—or maybe they just don't know how else to wish someone well. They could simply say, "Do well" or "All the best." Or they could look to God, saying, "God be with you" or "God bless you" (yet only if He is truly sought).
After all, true power is with God, not with luck. As the Bible tells us: "Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things … by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing … The Creator of the ends of the earth neither faints nor is weary" (Isaiah 40:26-28).
Using luck in our vocabulary and lives may seem harmless. But God is jealous for His people. He truly loves you and desires the best for your future. It does not please Him when we turn to fables and smooth phrases that announce our dependence on anything but Him. Everything we are and have ultimately comes from God. The only reliable assurance that our future is secure lies in our relationship with our Creator, not some ominous luck, wishes, stars or leprechauns.
God beats luck any day
God wants us to understand that we must never direct our worship toward anything He has created, or regard it as the source of our life and blessings. Worship only the Creator—never the creation. He is the sole miracle-working God who provides blessings, hopes and a promised future of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Rainbows, waterfalls, clovers, stars and the rest of the creation were created for us to enjoy and use as a wonderful and beautiful environment to live in. We don't bow down, pray or make requests to any aspect of the creation.
So where are you placing your trust, faith and hope? That's a vital question for each of us.
God's ultimate plan and desire for us is that we live forever in His eternal family and Kingdom: "Now we are children of God … we know that when He [Jesus Christ] is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
That is the purpose for which we have been created! Luck has nothing to do with it! Wishing wells, wishing on a star or making a wish when blowing out birthday candles simply skew and corrupt our relationship with our Creator.
There is one source of blessings. There is one way into the Kingdom of God. There is one sacrifice that removes the penalty of our personal sins. God alone is that true source—not luck!
Read the related article "St. Patrick & St. Patrick's Day".