The Solution to Superstition The teaching of Proverbs 26:2
Superstition is a very powerful force. It is so strong that many people's lives are completely controlled by it. Wherever they go, whatever they do, they have to be constantly careful to do every tiny detail along the way in a very particular way – and it's certainly not the way you'll read about in the Bible.
The way of the Bible is to make us free; the way they live by, makes them slaves. And that doesn't only happen to people who aren't Christians. Increasingly, believers are being trapped up in this web of deceitful guilt.
Because that's what these people live under – guilt. They have to be so very, very careful, and still they can't be too sure. They are the kind of people who are easily swayed by any kind of new lucky charm.
Our age now is exactly the right breeding ground for this. As David Read says,
History shows that when religion wanes in any country, it's not replaced by popular rationalist philosophy which leads to universal happiness and peace ... The vacuum left by the waning of religion in western countries has been filled by an army of superstitious cults and beliefs.
That's what Proverbs 26:2 is about: Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. This describes superstition. But it exposes it, too. And so, it helps us all to live in Christ's full freedom today.
You might be wondering how we could get all this out of such a small verse. A verse that doesn't even talk specifically about superstition. The closest you could possible get to that is perhaps the word, "curse".
Let's take a closer look at this verse. A verse where the word "curse" is certainly a key word. That makes us look further into Scripture to see what it means here.
The character of a curse
Actually the Bible is the best place to look, because the world's meaning for curse is something quite terrible. When you are cursed out there, it will get to you in here! Just by accidentally touching an alleged curse from the past you can be seriously harmed, even if you don't have a clue what's going on.
The belief is that curses have a power all of their own. You can have a drastic run of 'bad luck' if you get any of these details wrong.
Here's one example from an episode in a popular television series, "The X-Files": The plot concerns the unearthing of an ancient Ecuadorian artefact. This artefact is reputed to hold the remains of a female shaman, or witchdoctor, in other words. The artefact is moved to Boston, while the local Indians object because of the magic attached to it. Over the next few weeks a number of people who come into contact with the artefact mysteriously die, all in an apparently similar way. After these terrifying events, the State Department agrees to return the urn to its place. There it is buried, with an old shaman looking on.
There are many more examples around today. One only needs to watch horror movies and realise there's a familiar pattern like this which keeps recurring. It's nothing new at all.
We read the same in the Bible too. In Numbers 22, Balaam was being asked to cast an evil spell over the Israelites. He must have been quite good at it. Or, at least, in getting people to believe he was!
His position was that of a diviner – a caster of spells. And he was being asked to come a long way. That's why Balak's servants had the money to pay him with them. The Moabites were desperate to have 'bad luck' hit the Israelites, because it seemed that they were having all the good luck until now in their conquests – and the Moabites were next! That's how Balak had come to the point of looking for this man who cast spells – in his hatred against the Israelites he went as far as he could, even to the river Euphrates.
Balak's attempt to curse God's people is another example of the devil's attack against the Lord. This is why any kind of divination or sorcery was banned from the promised land. They were ways Satan used to distract the Hebrews from the LORD, in the same way he stirred up Balak to trying using them directly against the LORD.
What Balak tried to do is that kind of cursing which is still in the world today. It's this curse which is the "undeserved curse"
The character behind the curse
Imagine if we had swapped the word "undeserved" with "deserved". That way, the person getting cursed would be inflicted with an appropriate punishment for a sin they have done. We could understand then that this kind of curse wouldn't be like "a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow". That curse would hit home!
In fact, the supreme example of a curse hitting home is seen in the One who suffered the ultimate curse of God – our Lord Jesus Christ. We believers were cursed by God for sinning against Him – and those sins only compound every day.
God has always held out before us His perfect standard, but we can't keep it – we only go against it more and more! Just as Adam originally suffered God's curse for breaking the covenant, so all people today are suffering the same. That's why the apostle Paul says about our salvation, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" (Ga1.3:13)
So, what has made the curse in the text "undeserved"? Well, we cannot go past the person who uttered the curse, can we? When you hear a voice in your street, or at your work, shouting out all kind of invectives against others, we just about know already who it is – don't we? It's that nasty and spiteful so-and-so!
Proverbs 26:2 says the same. We find that supported in the verses around it. There is a recurring subject there – the one called "the fool"! Looking at the verse 1, and 3 till 12, we notice this subject exactly because he doesn't appear in the text.
The fool is the character behind the curse. And believe me, he or she is no fool! Let's not imagine that this person has somehow lost part of his intellectual capacity. The word "fool" in Proverbs describes the person who does not believe in God.
Just as whenever the word "wise" appears in this book it's speaking about those living in the Lord. But, notice, they are living in the LORD. They aren't apart from Him. For what happens when believers start to depend on themselves, and not on the Lord, can become a curse as well. And it's a curse especially on them and other believers.
There is a belief about curses amongst Christians today, however, which takes this too far. That idea is called "generational curses". This belief says that there are judgements that are passed on to individuals because of sins perpetuated in a family through a number of generations. Generational curses are said to be similar to original sin curses because they can be passed down generationally. They differ in that generational curses do not impose eternal judgment. They bring judgment or bondage during an individual's life, until that individual addresses the sin issues that put the curses into place.
If this all sounds like the secular repressed memory syndrome suddenly spiritualised, you're not far wrong! Just as much as the world's psychologists once told us that we needed their counselling to uncover those family abuses from the past, so these Christians are telling us we need deliverance from these "generational curses" of the past.
And no need to guess who can do it for them! You guessed it – the very ones who told them so!
Mind you, they will quote Scripture. They'll mention where it says in Exodus about punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. But they won't mention Ezekiel when he says that these sins only apply when the next generation actually do them themselves. If you don't sin that way you've got nothing to repent of!
To say, then, that we've got this huge accumulative baggage from the past which somehow needs unloading, is really only showing how much the world's curses have got into the church. It's the LORD who says to His people, earlier in Proverbs 3:33, "The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous." God puts us in a different situation altogether. We've no need to fear!
Who is the character behind the curse? To ask the question is to answer it. The ultimate "fool" is Satan, and he will suffer the most terrible punishment because of it.
But don't think that the old devil is just using that kind of curse in certain Christian denominations, or in the world, which is naturally where we expect him to be. He places that curse in us, too, as we live in the fear of this world. See the way some Christians carry on, and you can see that so clearly. The things which captivate their lives are those things which we can see so negatively in society.
The violence, the horror, the fear you'll find it all from so-called 'Christian' rock groups right through to much of the popular Christian literature. So much of it just copies the world. It makes us afraid! And it's all a curse!
Exactly because we're not blessing! There's no triumphant Triune Majesty there.
The only antidote to cursing is blessing. That's all Balaam could do as he declared those oracles over Israel.
The character who can curse
The only One who has the power to curse – the LORD God Himself – tells us to do the complete opposite. It's by blessing that the curse is pronounced upon this world – on all who don't repent and become saved.
It's the difference we see elsewhere in Proverbs. Like chapter 11, verse 26, "People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell." And chapter 24, "Whoever says to the guilty, 'You are innocent' – peoples will curse him and nations denounce him. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them."
We show the power of the One who can curse by lives which show up the curse which others still carry. That's freedom, because it's being free to love and serve others, so that they will be truly free too.
We don't bless when we cast our disparaging thoughts or frowns or comments at our neighbour's different lifestyle or louder music, or their mowing the lawn on Sunday.
We do bless when we give help, whatever it is. Simply talking to them might tell us that Sunday's the only day that working separated mum can mow her lawn, and your offer to do it for her free another time is a great relief! As Proverbs also says, "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses." (Prov.28:27)
It's as we become Christ to them that the blessing will come to rest. Then it is the One who was cursed for us who is blessed – Jesus Christ is raised up! "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life."
These quoted liberating words are from the apostle John. They're words which we find in his gospel just before perhaps the most well-known text in the Bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Having this life means you can't be wiped out by the evil one. Neither can he change your eternal destination while you're now on this planet earth. Because while this world is like those birds of the text, which cannot stay still, since it's just not in their nature to rest, we do have the peace of God. That's security forever in the Rock of Age.