What is the difference between luck and a blessing?
Questions for this issue come from Alexandra (age 6 1/2) and Joshua (age 10)…
Webster’s dictionary defines luck as the “force that brings good or bad”. The ancient Greeks and Romans used to worship luck in the form of the goddess Fortuna. Her name even became another word for luck, ‘fortune’. A blessing is defined as “to invoke Divine Care”. The source of blessings is God Himself!
Luck is a pagan, non-Christian concept that views good or bad fortune — and success — as a tangible thing unto itself. Certain items, like rabbits’ feet, four-leaf clovers, and other “good luck” charms” are said to “bring luck”. Certain days, and even people, are considered “lucky”. Seeking “luck” is closely connected with superstition, which in turn connected to magic. According to this world view, humans are at the mercy of unseen powerful and uncertain forces that may help or hurt us.
A blessing is very different from the idea of luck. God is Lord of the world. A blessing asks for His Divine Protection and help. Whereas luck can be good or bad, a blessing is always good. God’s care for us and the world is called Divine Providence. This concern for us is grounded in love, and is personal and real. By extension the symbols of God, such as the Cross, religious medals, or phylacta (little bags of earth from holy places), are powerful when they are used not as “lucky charms”, but as signs that we believe in God’s power and protection. They are not sources of power themselves but only point back to God. Those who do not know God are trapped in a world that is full of fears and evil forces that they try to manipulate with magic and superstition. Christians can look on life and not be afraid, for Christ has destroyed the power of evil. If we trust in Him and follow His ways, nothing can really harm us. Christians reject the very existence of the idea of “luck”. Attracting “luck” with a charm, a special day according to the zodiac, or other such things, is nonsense!
Why do we say, “God bless you”?
If someone sneezes or does something very good, we often hear someone say, “God bless you!” This is a phrase that asks the Lord to protect you, keep you in good health, make you holy, and fill your life with good and happiness. It is the very best thing we can want for someone.
Centuries ago the causes of diseases were not well known, but people knew that sneezing often came before illnesses that could be life threatening. So, the immediate response was, “God bless you!” (meaning, “God protect you from sickness and death!”). And even as we become better at treating disease, isn’t it still the best thing to ask God to keep us well? So we say, “God bless you!” to this very day.
If someone does something nice for us, we ask God to reward him or her. We say to them, “God bless you!” (meaning, “God reward you with His blessing in return for the good you have done!”). Whenever we use the phrase “God bless you!” we are actually saying a very short prayer. The English language used to be full of all sorts of prayers and blessings. Only a few have survived in our modern, post-Christian society — “God help you!” or “God help us!”, “Please God!”, “God forbid!”, and “God speed!” The last phrase is used to ask God to watch over someone who is traveling.
To quote Tiny Tim from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, everyone!”
Thanks to V.Rev.Fr. Nicholas Hughes, proistamenos of SS. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Mansfield, OH, for filling Father’s cassock for this issue!