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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Friday, February 19

You are the Lord, most high over all the earth, you are exalted far above all gods.
—Psalm 97:9

The great Canadian preacher and teacher Herbert O’Driscoll was in the dining hall of his seminary in Ireland, seated next to the warden. "I spilled some salt," he recalled, "and without thinking, took a bit of it and tossed it over my left shoulder. The warden immediately hissed, ‘What are you doing?’ and I explained that I was tossing the salt into the devil’s eye. He sternly said, ‘Then why are you here? If you say you worship and trust God, there’s no room for superstition.’"

O’Driscoll never forgot that experience, and I can see why. Most of us probably grew up avoiding all kinds of things that would bring bad luck: walking under ladders, leaving your hat on in bed, opening an umbrella indoors, or having a black cat cross your path. It never occurred to me that these practices are signals that we may still have other "gods" lurking in the corners of our hearts and minds.

My favorite seminary professor had a lot to say about superstition. "You either believe in God, or not," he told us. "There’s no 13th floor in [the downtown Baptist] Hospital. It makes me mad every time I get on an elevator!" My classmates and I laughed uncomfortably. It is hard to face up to how many "little gods" we serve.

Since it is Lent, a time to examine our thoughts and actions, perhaps we should take a moment to think about how superstition erodes our trust in God. Certainly, superstition is not one of the cardinal sins—or is it?

Isn’t part of the first commandment, "You shall have no other Gods but me?"

Help us, O God, to put all our trust in you. And when we err and stray from your way, forgive us and restore us. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2007.