The Meaning of the Black Cat
Black cats have generally been considered as omens of bad luck or an indication of a satanic presence. In the time of the Pilgrims, some thought black cats were “familiars” (demons) in league with witches. However, in other cultures, black cats have been considered a sign of good luck, or either good or bad luck, depending on which direction a particular cat was walking.
This past Monday night, with six minutes to go in the NFL Cowboys/Giants game, a black cat appeared on the field. Immediately, the commentators began speculating about its meaning for the home team, the Cowboys. It appeared to me the cat was walking mostly from left to right, which according to folklore, means good luck is coming. The Cowboys won the game, so I guess it all fits.
I am not a superstitious person, and I don’t think the Cowboys win had anything to do with a black cat. Well, perhaps it did if the Giants believe in folklore and allowed the cat incident to influence their play.
Regardless, I am intrigued by the human bent toward superstition. Please know that I have no desire to condemn others for innocent routines they believe make them more successful. People are probably not going to be led into the occult by claiming to have a lucky golf club, a special coin in their pocket or a favorite hat. More problematic, I believe, is the tendency to project superstitious thinking on our relationship with God.
Some examples include:
- The belief we have displeased God when we encounter trials.
- The belief we are doing something right when we experience good things.
- The belief God will reward us with health and wealth if we claim it to be so.
- The belief we are more blessed than others because we are better people.
I am not suggesting there is no connection between our actions and God’s blessings. Or that God doesn’t reward us when we are faithful. There is no doubt in my mind we will find greater fulfillment in life if we obey God. On the other hand, it is possible to do everything right and still suffer. It is also important to trust God when life doesn’t make sense, and when we feel we are being treated unfairly.
In truth, this is not how a walk with God works. Jesus once said His Father makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). God doesn’t promise an easy life, but He does promise to bless us.
Superstitious people interpret God’s love in light of their circumstances, and they act in godly ways to get what they want. The danger in this pattern of behavior is that we might believe things about God that are untrue, based on our circumstances, and we will only act in godly ways when there is something we want.
God is not a God of “lucky charms”. He is a God of blessings, seen and unseen, present and future. God even uses bad things He didn’t cause to help us grow in our faith. When I view God through the lens of superstition, I try to control Him for my own purpose. When I see Him as a faithful God who blesses me in ways that serve His purposes, I learn to roll with the punches and watch for His hand to move in everything.
This is not the same as watching a black cat waltz across a football field. I’m not saying God can’t work through a cat. He has used animals before.
But I think we can all agree the cat on the Dallas gridiron didn’t appear to be supernaturally led. Had he been, he would have lifted a paw to toward heaven when he walked into the end zone.