The Great Plague stretched across London like a thick, drab blanket. It came as a thief in the night . . . unannounced, treacherous, silent. The mortality rate was astounding.
Someone came up with the foolish idea that polluted air brought on the plague. So people began to carry flower petals in their pockets, superstitiously thinking the fragrance would ward off the disease. Groups of victims, if they were able to walk, were taken outside the hospitals. Holding hands, they walked in circles around rose gardens, breathing in deeply the aroma of the blooming plants. As death came closer, another superstitious act was employed with sincerity. Many felt if the lungs could be freed from pollution, life could be sustained. So ashes were placed in a spoon and brought up near the nose, causing a hefty sneeze or two. But nothing retarded the raging death rate. Not until the real cause was discovered—the bite of fleas from diseased rats—was the plague brought in check.
The awful experience gave birth to a little song which innocent children still sing at play. It was first heard from the lips of a soiled old man pushing a cart in London, picking up bodies along an alley:
Ring around the roses,
A pocket full of posies;
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
Conceived in the mind by ignorance, superstition cultivates insecurity and sends a legion of structural cracks through our character. It feeds on exaggerated, self-made lies which grow so thick that the boughs hide common sense—and worse, God.
You find superstition in sports. Some basketball players testify they simply cannot play the game unless they go through their strange warm-up ritual. The manager of one professional baseball team doesn’t dare step on a white baseline. Several pro football running backs have superstitious “dances” that follow their touchdowns—and you’d better not try to stop them! The news media reported that one of America’s Olympic skiers stuck a four-leaf clover in her jacket pocket before she hit the slopes.
Superstition enslaves many an entertainer. You wouldn’t believe the mental contortions they go through before their performances. Students are superstitious about getting good grades. Mothers are superstitious about their babies at night. Men are superstitious about their success in sales or the future of their careers. Multiplied millions are superstitious about their astrological forecast.
The worst? Superstition regarding the Lord God. The Reformers were among the first to see it and call a spade a spade. They wrote of it, preached against it, publicly exposed it—and were martyred because of it. Religious superstition is ruthless.
Before you write this off as applying to anyone but yourself, take a long, hard look at your own life. The goal of superstition is bondage. Remember that. If anything in your Christianity has you in bondage, it is probable that superstition is the breeding ground. You see, our Savior came to give us the truth and set us free. Superstition, although prompted by sincerity, brings the plague of slavery. Sincerity doesn’t liberate; Christ does.
You may be sincere. As sincere as a pocketful of petals or a spoonful of ashes or a song in the alley. But what good is a song if it’s sung to a corpse?