Esther and Luck

Luck is not something Christians often talk about, except perhaps to briefly note that “we don’t believe in luck” (although by sheer luck providence, both Matt Hosier and Marcus Tutt blogged on it recently). Both in ancient and modern times people have ascribed the randomness of life, how some seem to be favoured while others suffer misfortunes, as being down to “luck”.

In Esth 3:7 we see Haman choosing the day for the annihilation of the Jews by casting lots (the “pur”), presumably in order to allow the gods to decide which would be his “lucky day”. As it turns out, God had chosen the day, and it was anything but lucky for Haman.

Luck and Cards

One question that quickly arises when we think about luck is, “should Christians play games that are largely based on chance”? Calvinists of previous generations opposed card-playing on the grounds that it caused us to move our trust from God onto “fortune” or “luck”. Others argued that it was a gateway drug to gambling. For example, here’s a quote from J C Ryle on card playing:

Concerning card-playing, my judgment is much the same. I ask Christian people to try it by its tendencies and consequences. Of course it would be nonsense to say there is positive wickedness in an innocent game of cards, for diversion, and not for money. I have known instances of old people of lethargic and infirm habit of body, unable to work or read, to whom cards in an evening were really useful, to keep them from drowsiness, and preserve their health. But it is vain to shut our eyes from facts. From simple card-playing to desperate gambling there is but a chain of steps. If parents teach young people that there is no harm in the first step, they must never be surprised if they go on to the last.

Of course, these days, as gospel-centred Christians we are falling over ourselves not to be legalistic, and so would never dream of making such pronouncements. Yet I think the result is that acceptability of gambling amongst Christians is on the increase. It is either dismissed as a harmless bit of fun, or defended as a game of skill (amazing how many people delude themselves into thinking they are skilled at predicting sporting results). However, the corrective to legalism is not to simply to declare that anything goes, but to seek to be led by the Spirit in these matters, and steer clear of things that are “sowing to the flesh” (Gal 6:8).

Luck and Envy

But I don’t think that gambling or games of chance are the biggest evidence of unbiblical thinking concerning luck. Maybe the biggest giveaway to our belief in “luck” comes when we envy others. “He’s so lucky”, we say. It is a refusal to accept the sovereignty of God to give to another what he has not given to us. It manifests itself in ungratefulness as well as jealousy. So someone else is blessed with more money, more gifts, more ministry opportunities, better looks, better health than you. Do we really believe that God knows what he is doing and is in control, or are we just “unlucky”? Can we really trust him, or do we feel the need to “make our own luck”?

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