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What does the Bible say about luck?
February 23, 2021
SAINT PATRICK’S DAY
AND ‘THE LUCK OF THE IRISH’
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE
SAY ABOUT LUCK?
Coincidence vs. Providence – How Does God Work in the World?
DALLAS – Feb 23, 2021 – As Saint Patrick’s Day rolls around our popular culture turns to talk of wearing green, four-leaf clovers and “the luck of the Irish.” But Jim Denison—co-founder of Denison Forum, pastor, author and digital-ministry leader—points out Saint Patrick would not have considered himself “lucky,” and the word “luck” never appears in the Bible.
So, what does the Bible say about coincidence vs. providence affecting our lives?
First, let’s give Saint Patrick his due. If he had the luck of the Irish . . . you can keep it! Born in England, he was sold into slavery at age 16 and served in forced labor in harsh conditions for six years. Coming to Christian faith during that time, a vision from God led him to a harrowing escape and return to England. Only, once there, another divine vision convicted him of his need to return to Ireland and be a witness to the pagan culture there.
He studied the Bible for seven years, then returned. When his career was done, he had established some two hundred churches in Ireland and led more than 100,000 people to faith in Christ, despite more than a dozen attempts on his life.
He wouldn’t have called it luck. He would have called it divine providence—the good and the bad.
Second, what does our culture say about luck today? Many claim we live in a “follow the science” world where everything can be explained, and science is law. But a recent scientific study showed people who believe they are lucky—as in good things tend to coincidentally happen to them—tend to be happy. And those who believe in a deterministic “luck”—where their lives are shaped by things beyond their control—tend to be more neurotic.
So, what does the Bible say? Is coincidence (aka “luck”) determining our steps? Or is God? Or are we?
It’s clear from scriptures that God is in control and our choices still matter.
What appears to be “chance” operates under the sovereignty of God. In Proverbs 16, Solomon wrote, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Some have said “coincidence is when God prefers to remain anonymous.) God is sovereign. Jesus says in Matthew 10:29–30:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
Yet, in that sovereignty, he has given you, me and everyone else a real choice that impacts our lives and the lives of others. Yes, he knows what we will choose. That’s not the same as choosing for us.
Following a year like 2020—a pandemic, riots, division—it’s easy to fault God both for being in control and not being in control at the same time. But it hasn’t been a year of “good” luck or “bad” luck. It has been another year where God remains trustworthy no matter the circumstances.
That short passage above from Matthew ends with this encouragement from Jesus: “So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
And by the way, in the following century after Saint Patrick’s enslavement, Irish Christians who were spiritual descendants of his ministry sailed back to Britain where they evangelized the heathen who had overrun the country. They established monasteries and copied books being destroyed elsewhere.
According to Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization, they “single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent.”
Denison and the Denison Forum reach 2.1 million people around the globe with The Daily Article, delivered by email and social media; The Daily Article podcast; and numerous books. He speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues where faith and current events intersect.
Denison holds doctoral and master’s degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has pastored five churches across 36 years with a combined membership of more than 20,000. He is the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum. He also serves as Resident Scholar for Ethics with Baylor Scott & White Health and as Senior Fellow for Cultural Studies with Dallas Baptist University.
For interviews, contact: Michael Conrad, Michael@130a.com 214-616-0320
About The Denison Forum
The Denison Forum exists to thoughtfully engage the issues of the day from a biblical perspective. Through The Daily Article and podcast, which globally reach 2.1 million people monthly with subscribers in 226 countries. Dr. Jim Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically.