The Empty Food of Idols

One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s early stories is called “The Hollow of the Three Hills,” in which a woman seeks counsel from a witch and receives nothing but bad news. That appears to be the witch’s point, to break the woman’s heart, and that is the reason I believe her revelations to be complete lies. The story doesn’t say the witch is lying, but I see no reason to believe she isn’t. After all, she is in the service of the father of lies.

Deception is my primary filter for viewing occultic things. On the one hand, trusting the stupid words of a horoscope is a great way to hamstring your life. On the other hand, hoping for special advice from a medium or psychic is like trusting your money to Bernie Madoff. Even if what you hear rings true to you, it’s very likely to be a lie.

So it troubled me hear a caller to a radio program about Halloween say that she understood there were witches in her area placing curses on Halloween costumes and she and her church were praying against them this weekend. I suppose prayer against the enemy for any reason is a good thing, but I don’t remember anything in the Bible and I can’t find anything online from trustworthy sources to support the idea that these curses mean anything.

Note the list of occult practices in Deuteronomy 18:9-12 (John Piper has a great sermon on this.)

“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.

Most of these are ways someone would seek knowledge, and the rest don’t suggest to me the legitimacy of casting spells on objects in order to harm innocent people who use them. Perhaps the “charmer” is someone who places charms on things, but is there any real power behind this? Isn’t this just another deception? I think it is. Moreover, I don’t believe Christians have a reason to fear “cursed” costumes, but the Spirit of the Lord within them is far greater than anything the devil is able to do.

Such curses have no power. They are like the empty food of lifeless idols. And though other methods of the occult are dangerous lies for anyone who trusts them, I believe these curses are worthless.

10 thoughts on “The Empty Food of Idols”

  1. Years ago, during a particularly trying time of “a demon under everything,” I was warned that bringing second-hand items was dangerous as people could curse them. We were broke and couldn’t afford to buy straight retail. Then a reasonable teacher came along who asked why just second-hand items? Why not hesitate to buy brand new things? Why couldn’t people in the manufacturing end curse parts that they assemble them? Why should we trust that curses aren’t being used by those who grow crops, mine minerals, pump water, have anything to do with the creation of a product. You can see where this kind of thinking leads.

  2. Yes, Sue, it’s an ugly superstition that has no place in a Christian’s mind.

    I haven’t noticed that proverb before, Lars. Thanks for applying it here.

  3. From my experience with folks living the occult life; the curses are really for the cursers…

    It builds up their “occult ego” if they can “throw out” some curses that shake up the Christians or occult non-believers.

    I have seen that the witches and warlocks need frequent frenzy enhancements so they can more easily believe in the nonsense they are doing.

    The ones I’ve talked with believe satan gives them some great power to cast spells and curses… but when they do and nothing really happens, well if the subjects get all spooked, the satanists feel satan has done what was promised to them. It was close enough.

    My faith in Christ and the Bible gives me complete confidence in being “curse-proof”. In fact, I think the cursers are bring down problems on their own heads that they should be concerned about. Perhaps they could become pigs who run into a lake????

  4. My Confirmation class recently covered the Second Commandment and the meaning from Luther’s Small Catechism,

    Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.

    What does this mean?

    We should so fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, conjure, lie nor deceive by God’s name, but call upon him in every time of need and worship him with prayer, praise and thanksgiving.

    During a lengthy discussion of the difference between cursing (calling down evil) and swearing (supporting my honesty) I pointed out that the word that sounds like the word for a wall that holds back water but has an N on the end literally means to send the applied object or person to hell for eternity. Such a declaration is not ours to make and by so doing, we place ourselves in the place of God, who alone has that responsibility. When we curse someone with damnation we, in essence, declare that we know better than God the judgment required and that we do not trust Him to make the right pronouncement. In other words, it not only breaks the second commandment to not take his name in vain, but also the first commandment to have no other gods before Him.

    I then pointed out that such a declaration rarely comes to pass, based on Proverbs 26:2 “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.” (ESV)

    (This thread reminded me of that verse, which then led me to post the wider discussion in which I was recently referencing that verse. It’s the Asperger’s in me.)

  5. Based on much of what’s already been said, I’m not that concerned with most occult practices having much effect beyond deceiving and leading astray its practitioners. My bigger concern is the way such practices have been infiltrating the church. As I cited above, the Small Catechism observes that conjuring by God’s name is a violation of the commandment not to use his name in vain or to no purpose. Yet how many books and teachings are floating around the church claiming that we will have real power if we just pray a certain prayer or say special words in a special way or other such nonsense. The power of God is based on the promises of His Word, not on our techniques or tone.

    This idea first struck me while reading a very popular little book about an obscure Old Testament character who was noted for the prayer he prayed. The first part of the book wasn’t so bad, giving the background of the person and noting the petitions he made. Then the second part of the book instructed the reader to repeat the prayer over and over so that good things would happen as if the prayer was an incantation that would manipulate God to do my bidding. Then I began to notice similar errors from numerous other false teachers.

    Has anyone else noticed the trend away from submission to God and “Thy will be done?” Rather the airwaves are flooded with “My will be done.” if only I pray with enough feeling in the right way with the right words. That’s conjuring by God’s name if you ask me.

  6. I have heard such things, but I guess I’m surrounded by good teachers who don’t go there. I remember reading a couple articles by a woman who was known by someone I knew. I wish I could remember the verse she pointed to, but her application was just as you have described. We can pray, and that’s good, but if we use this particular phrase, we will see the Lord split the sky and pay our bills or whatever we asked for. She gave several examples by way of proof, but only one of them could be a potentially answered prayer of the type she wanted; the rest were that she prayed and felt better–behold a miracle.

    I told my wife she was advocating white magic, using scripture verses like spells. I don’t know if this is a rising trend in the church, but I do suspect that some people are confused or disappointed by prayer because their unspoken expectations are a bit like anticipating white magic. If I ask and it doesn’t happen, did I do something wrong?

    I’m a little embarrassed to talk about the little book, because back in 2001 I was at a conference with the author, and I bought everything he said. I’d heard him on Focus on the Family saying the same things, and how Dobson responded, and now I heard him again at the conference. It was exciting. I didn’t think it was white magic at all, and now, I’m hesitant to run with my emotions at a conference b/c I don’t want to be duped. But I rarely go to conferences.

  7. I thought about this a lot last summer. I was volunteering at a Bible Camp when one of the counselors had a heart attack. While a few staffers did CPR, sixty campers gathered on the softball field a hundred yards away to pray. Fortunately, one of the staffers was an EMT/First Responder who had oxygen and a defibrillator in his trunk. Three others were either EMT’s or RN’s After two shocks, the counselor was coming around before the ambulance arrived and was out of the hospital and able to return to camp for the closing service later in the week.

    That got me thinking about how we teach kids about prayer. What if that counselor had died right in front of the entire camp? Would that have meant that prayer doesn’t work? Or that those praying didn’t have sufficient faith? The answer to both questions is an emphatic “NO!” Yet, I’ve seen too many former believers whose faith was destroyed when they were taught to believe wrong things and then felt betrayed by God.

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