Is it ok for Christians to believe in luck?
Does chance exist, or is God in control of everything?
The word ‘luck’ is very much a part of our everyday conversation.
Christian or not, we find ourselves wishing others and ourselves success in the future...
- We wish 'good luck!’ before someone takes a test or a new job.
- We make statements like ‘it was supposed to rain during our game today but we just got lucky’.
- We wish ourselves luck when we roll a dice in a board game or spin a wheel in an arcade.
- We hope for luck to save us from getting caught when we engage in some rule-breaking activity like speeding on the highway or skipping homework.
Obviously, the concept of luck is applied in a wide spectrum of circumstances from trivial statements to life-altering events, but is wishing luck contrary to what we believe as Christians?
What is luck?
Lets start by defining the word ‘luck’. Dictionary.com defines it as ‘good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance’.
There is nothing wrong with hoping for success in the future—after all, we're all uncertain about future events, good or bad. But when we believe in luck, we are implying that future successful events happen randomly as a result of chance.
The problem for Christians is, we can't believe in a God who is in control of our future all the time, while also believing that events happen randomly or that God himself is subject to chance and gets lucky.
They simply can't both be true. So, let's see what the Bible says...
What does the Bible say about luck?
There are some Bible passages that seem to imply that chance plays a role in our lives. Here’s a small sample:
- Casting lots was a common practice among the ancient Israelites. It was used when difficult decisions had to be made. The high priest carried with him, Urim and Thummim (two precious stones) that he would pick at random when it came time to decide on important matters. In 1 Samuel 14:40-42, a lot was cast to find Jonathan guilty. In the story of Jonah, lot was cast to again find who was at fault for the raging sea. The idea with casting lots is not to let chance decide people’s fate, but instead to discover God's purpose or plan in a particular situation.
- Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 alludes to randomness in life. It reads, “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor richest to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all”. This is a profound observation about the apparent unpredictability in life by a wise king. If we stop reading the book of Ecclesiastes at this verse, we would conclude that events in our lives are controlled by chance but thankfully that’s not how that book ends.
- Ruth 2:3 describes the story of Ruth who “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz”, giving the impression that Ruth met her husband Boaz by chance. But again, the rest of the book sees that event as being under God's direction.
God is in control
For every passage in the Bible that seems to imply that our lives are controlled by chance, there are numerous others that affirm that God is directly in control of the events of our lives.
- Proverbs 16:33 reads, “The Lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Casting a lot may seem random but even that outcome is from the Lord.
- Isaiah 46:10 describes a God who declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done.
- Psalm 139:16 talks about a God who has a book with all the days of our lives written in it before any of them came to pass.
And so, according to the Bible, events in our lives don’t happen randomly. They are all part of God's plan.
Even our negatives are used positively by God
I think, if we're honest, most of our worries for the future are not about the good things that are going to happen to us but about the bad things.
But the good news for Christians is, the bad things work out to be good at the end! That’s exactly what Romans 8:28 says: “All things (good and bad) work together for good to those who love God”.
It’s not the worst thing in the world to wish someone luck, but perhaps we could wish him or her ‘all the best!’ next time and pray for them instead.