It has become common phenomenon recently. Pictures of preachers or handkerchiefs from them or better still ‘holy water’ or anointing oil they have “blessed” are sold at exorbitant prices to congregants with the assertion that purchasing such items constitutes an act of faith. The believers in these “anointed” items consequently keep them close to their person at all time, or in their cars and homes. In turn, these ‘anointed items’ are purported to be able to accomplish all manner of unimaginable results; including the ability to recover debts overnight; ward off evil spirits; cause a sudden overflow of business income; render one’s enemies impotent and in some cases take the lives of such supposed enemies; upon application in certain ways as directed by the ‘men of God’ from whom they were procured.
One ‘believer’ reportedly said by carrying a special handkerchief from his ‘man of God’, anyone with whom he shook hands was bound to favour them no matter what. He had countless testimonies to prove this, he asserted. But the question that begs answering is, is this Christianity or superstition?
What these preachers and their followers do is what Paul calls using the word of God deceitfully (2Corinthians 4:2). The superstitious practices of these false teachers and their followers are no different from that of users of charms procured from the local fetish priest or traditional native doctor. Whether the end goals of their ritualistic practices and the motives backing these are in line with the Scriptural teaching are secondary to these superstitious Christians. One can be living in sin, and still expect to get miraculous results simply by applying “anointed items” from a “special man of God”; clearly, a contradiction of the biblical teaching as we find in the pages of Scripture.
In Matthew 21: 12-13 Jesus enters the temple and is greeted by all these people engaging in merchandise in the temple. The temple authorities and priests at the time condoned a great market that sold animals used in the temple sacrifice to the worshippers; and served as a hub for money changers. Jesus in indignation chased them out of the temple, citing the Old Testament Scripture ‘’my house shall be called the house of prayer’’ instead of a den of thieves! (Isaiah 56:7; paraphrase).
How different is the Church of today from the scenery Jesus encountered in this passage? Is there any authority in the New Testament to support the selling and buying of so called anointed relics from servants of God, in order to derive miraculous results from these?
Further, what is to be said of the manner in which these so called men of God are idolised? Is God’s grace, which the Bible teaches is a gift, to be purchased with money? I shudder at Peter’s response in Acts 8: 20-22 ‘’thy money perish with thee for thinking that God’s gift can be purchased with money!’’ God’s gift is not to be sold nor bought with money. Faith is not magic. And Christianity is certainly not a quick fix, magic wand that can yield results to whoever wields it, no matter how they live their lives in relation to God’s word; or whatever their motives may be.
Sadly, the Protestant Church of today seems to have quickly sold the past. Johan Tetzel, the 15th century German friar, was reported to have said “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs”; meaning that one can give a coin to change the eternal destiny of an already departed one.
Tetzel further extorted money from his followers in exchange for the forgiveness of their sins, even those they were yet to commit in the future. These were the sort of practices that infuriated Luther and the reformers, whose battle cry was sola Scriptura – Scripture alone – with emphasis on salvation through faith alone, and through Christ alone!
Sadly, today we place more faith in preachers than in God and His Word, which alone is exalted above all things! Strangely, the word of men is exalted above the word of God, even when it is in plain contradiction with the Scriptural teaching. Whole congregations have in recent times been reported to do all manner of despicable things in blind obedience to so-called prophetic directions. In the pursuit of temporal breakthroughs and earthly comfort, we have denied the Lord we profess to love and have diverted our faith from Him to men and things.
Superstition is idolatry, because it ascribes the power of God to His creation instead of to Him. God commands that we worship Him alone (Exodus 20:3). He forbids the fashioning of images in any shape or form, and bowing to these (Exodus 20:3-4; Deuteronomy 5: 7-9). Angels refused worship countless times in the Scriptures and instead remonstrated that we worship God alone. Needless to say, the worship of men is clearly contrary to the Scriptural teaching. Peter refused worship from Cornelius (Acts 10:25-26). The apostles consciously pointed the believers to Christ, who alone saves, and were careful to divert all attention to Him and the Gospel – and nothing else. Any worship of a preacher (including bowing down to them instead of to God; kissing their feet in supposed honour, or regarding their words as equal to Scripture and infallible) is nothing short of idolatry in blunt terms, and must not be condoned.
Superstition is not Christianity. Christianity is faith in a person; the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His Word – which alone is our authority for living.