Portraits of Superstition: 7 Common Superstitions Christian Women Need to DitchThis seven article series paints seven portraits of superstition — common superstitions that have infiltrated our culture and even our Christianity. Some of these portraits are autobiographical. All of them are worthy of self-reflection.
Portrait Three: The Deal-Maker
The negotiator, the deal-maker, the haggler, the bargainer, the gambler– all of these crossed my mind as I was preparing this article. All are appropriate, but the bottom line is this woman tries to make deals with God. Some of this deal-making is direct and intentional and some of it is (seemingly) subtle and manipulative. The deal-maker is afraid. She is afraid she is not going to get her way. She is afraid of going through suffering, grief, or turmoil. She is afraid she is not going to get what she wants temporally, and her mind spends little time pondering eternity. Maybe she only tried to make a deal with God once — that one scary time when she thought she had cancer. She promised God she would quit smoking or go to church more; she would make this life count, if He would just give her a clean bill of health. Since then, she has forgotten about the deal. She made an effort to change for a while there, but now the fear and anxiety have passed. She doesn’t need God anymore, and she has fallen back into her old ways.
Or, maybe this deal-maker tries to make deals with God on a regular basis through the practice of affirmative prayer, speaking blessings into existence. The prayer usually starts like this, “I’m believing God for (fill in the blank)” This is a subtle attempt to manipulate God by essentially saying to Him, God, if I speak it out loud (because words are powerful) then I am showing you how much I truly believe it. And since I believe it so strongly, You are going to bless me for my great faith, right? It’s transactional. It’s a deal. It’s an exchange. You can read more about this superstitious prayer practice here.
So how does deal making fall into the realm of superstition you ask? Since we’ve defined superstition as faith in anything but God, we see this deal-maker having more faith in her ability to leverage favor from God than she has in God himself. The deal-maker has an exceptionally low view of God and a high view of self. It’s almost as if her “self” is her idol. She doesn’t understand God’s character and therefore does not trust him. Instead of simply putting her faith, hope, and trust in God, she trying to strong-arm her way into his good graces (through empty promised and good deeds), to gain favor. We know this is not how God communes with His people. Pagans believe this is the kind of behavior elicited by false gods– exchanging good behavior for blessings– working tirelessly to please the gods. But we know this is not how the God of the Universe operates. How do we know?
Read Genesis 18-19.
When we go to Scripture for the answer, the prominent example of a person making a deal with God is Genesis 18, when Abraham pleads with God in effort to save the city of Sodom and Gomorrah.
I have heard some teachers that essentially say, If it’s good enough for Abe, it’s good enough for me. Meaning, there are teachers who will say, Yes, it’s okay to make deals with God. Abraham has modeled it for us, and since good ol’ Abe is in the “Hebrews Hall of Fame” (Chapter 11) we should follow his example.
I would argue that this is terrible advice and one that does not properly derive meaning from Scripture. Let’s take a closer look at this passage. The first thing I want to point out is “Yahweh’s soliloquy”, 1 “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do” (Gen. 18:17). God sets himself up as Sovereign Judge before the conversation with Abraham even starts. God’s not going to change His mind, but He allows this discourse with Abraham anyway. As we read Abraham’s conversation with God, do we see him as a deal-maker attempting to trade something he possesses for something God possesses? Possibly. At first glance, it may seem that Abraham is trying to leverage the few possible righteous people in exchange for God’s mercy. However, the deeper I read this passage the more I see Abraham’s humility. This is not the bargaining agreement of some huckster trying to swindle God. This is a poor man’s prayerful plea to God to spare his family who lives in the city He is about to destroy. Abraham is acknowledging God as a merciful and righteous Judge. He is acknowledging Him as Sovereign. This prayer is no different from a prayer you or I would pray, begging God to save an unbelieving family member. It’s a painful, gut-wrenching plea.
It was only by God’s grace that He allowed Lot and his family to flee Sodom and Gomorrah before He set it ablaze. I would even go as far to argue that Lot and his family were not counted righteous, at least not by their deeds. Notice God didn’t spare the city on their behalf! Additionally, Lot’s wife disobeyed and was turned to a pillar of salt on her way out, and not long after that Lot’s daughters got their father drunk and slept with him (Gen. 19:32). Even Abraham was not counted righteous by his works (Rom. 4:22 cf. Gen. 15:6). So the argument that would encourage us to blindly imitate the many actions of our Old Testament heroes must be scrutinized.
Let’s take a look at Romans 4:13-25.
Romans 4:22 says, Abraham’s faith was “accredited to him as righteousness.” It doesn’t say Abraham’s good deeds were accredited to him as righteousness. In fact, when we look at our Old Testament heroes, we can observe Noah’s drunkenness (Gen. 9:21), Abraham’s adultery (Gen. 16), Jacob’s rebellion (Gen. 32), Moses’ disobedience (Num. 20), and more! So you see, this argument holds no water.
But let’s back up a bit. Let’s slow way down here. All these men were counted righteous in the eyes of God. The accreditation is Christ’s righteousness, the righteousness of the sinless Son. It’s the same righteousness we (believers today) receive in Christ (Rom. 4:23-25). But this is a deal that is made on God’s terms, not ours. This is the most gracious and merciful gift we could ever hope to receive. And it’s a gift because what we trade is egregious. It is the very thing that forces the Father to forsake the Son. Known as The Great Exchange, Christ willingly takes our sin, bears it on the cross, and in exchange robes us in His perfect righteousness. It’s called “justification,” a legal declaration: just as if we have never sinned! This righteousness is not of ourselves, but it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8).This is the same righteousness accredited to Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Moses, and yes, even “righteous Lot” (2 Peter 2:7). This righteousness comes by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.
It is evident now, that we cannot make deals with God, because we have nothing good to offer Him. God needs nothing from us. Even when He made Adam, it was not for want of companionship. It was not out of a lonely heart. No. It was for God’s own glory.
In Romans 3:10, Paul says, “Not one is righteous, no, not one.” Apart from Christ’s atoning sacrifice, we are all doomed. Unrighteous. Hell-bound.
And Isaiah 64:6 says our righteousness is “filthy rags” or a “polluted garment.” Ladies, if you’re curious, go ahead and Google what kind of rags these actually are. But, maybe you’d rather not know; just trust the Word. Anything we can hope to offer God in the arm of the flesh is absolutely putrefying to Him.
The ground is level at the foot of the cross. God does not favor anyone based on her deeds or actions. The goal is humility. The goal is to make much of Christ. All for His glory.
If you’ve ever resorted to superstitious deal-making with God, it’s important to bring that before the Throne of Grace now. God doesn’t want your empty promised. He doesn’t want your shallow behavior modification. He wants your heart. He wants your faith. Believe God, and ask Christ to comfort you in His beautiful righteous robe.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garment of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful head-dress, and a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
The next article in the Portraits of Superstition series discusses the Portraits of Kismet Kate and Karma Counterfeit (The Devious Twins). Check it out!