Why does a pregnant woman put a Bible under her pillow? She feels confident that God will never allow anything bad to happen to her or her baby during the vulnerable night. When the Bible is used in this way, it has become a fetish. If people think that God or a spirit works through a physical object, that object is called a fetish, charm, or juju. Fetishes are common across the world outside Africa in places like Haiti and Siberia and among Native Americans. Even in the United States, many people carry a lucky object like a rabbit’s foot to protect them.
Do Objects Have the Power to Protect?
Objects used as fetishes can be worn, hung on doors, laid in fields, or even tied under the steering wheel of a car. Some people mistakenly believe the fetishes have the power to protect life or bring good luck. Fetishes are also thought to guard against bad spirits and prevent attacks from malicious people. Fetishes are an important part of traditional African life and religion.
In most African traditional religions, people live in relationship with a deity. They use fetishes to try to influence these gods so they will manipulate circumstances in a person’s favour or control the forces of nature. People often use fetishes for protection and healing. But they can also be employed to wield power over others.
People who use fetishes believe physical objects represent God’s power… They divert attention away from the true object of our worship
Warnings About Fetishes in the Bible
The Bible instructs us not to use fetishes. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against all your magic charms… I will tear them from your arms” (Ezekiel 13:20). Using fetishes violate the second commandment. People who use them believe physical objects represent God’s or gods’ power. As such, they divert attention away from the true object of our worship and help.
Fetishes are tied closely to fear—that something bad will happen. As Christians, when people use fetishes to try to harm you, you do not need to fear. In the same way, you do not need to use fetishes for protection. The Lord will protect you. There is abundant evidence in the Bible of God’s protection without the use of fetishes. The Bible promises that no power, including the power of fetishes, can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-38).
The Bible promises that no power, including the power of fetishes, can separate us from the love of God
God Will Protect Us
The God of the Bible is all-powerful, mighty and fearsome, the only true God. He is the only one who can truly protect us (Psalm 46:1-3). His angels surround those who fear him and guard them from danger (Psalm 34:7). Even though righteous people can be struck by misfortune, God promises to ultimately deliver them (Psalm 34:19). God watches over us at every moment of our lives. Even when we are hit by the devil’s attacks, God tells us to turn to him for help—not to any other person or power. The God in whom we put our trust provides us with all that we need to overcome all evil forces, including any fetishes used against us (Luke 10:19).
Holy Water, Holy Oil & Seeds of Faith
Some people talk about God as if he can be influenced in the same way that African traditional religions use fetishes to try to influence their deities. Such people sell products that allegedly have powers. These are supposed to work in the favour of those who use them. The use of objects in our Christian worship such as “holy water”, water from the Jordan River, oil, mustard seed of faith, handkerchiefs or other objects that have received an anointed person’s blessing is similar to the use of fetishes in African traditional religions. Such objects have found their way into some Christian churches.
Our God is fully free and sovereign, and no ritual, object, or incantation has any influence over his actions.
However, selling or using such products does not honour or bring glory to God. Both those who sell them and those who use them are most often only seeking to manipulate God for their own selfish purposes. The “pastors” who advise people to use these kinds of objects rarely mention that “God is protecting you by his power… even though you must endure many trials for a little while (1 Peter 1:5-6).
We Cannot Manipulate God
Our God is fully free and sovereign, and no ritual, object, or incantation has any influence over his actions. Rather, the thing that merits his attention is when we call to him in earnest prayer. But what about when we fast or perform other actions like kneeling or prostrating ourselves before God? Well, in doing these, the actions or the posture of our body should be expressing our heart. Then God sees why we are fasting or kneeling and responds to our heart cry. God is not bound in any way in how he answers our prayers. Indeed, it does not matter what we do, what object we use, or the position of our bodies. He will listen and then act for our good and his glory.
Christians Should Not Use Fetishes
The New Testament never authorises or instructs us to use special objects in our service to God. But unfortunately this incorrect practice has tricked many people. As Christians, God is our protection and the only person in whom we should place our confidence. For He alone protects us and provides for our needs according to his mercy (Psalm 23; Matthew 6:25-34). Although our cultures may tempt us to turn to the use of fetishes, as Christians we should always say like David, “Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me, for I find protection in you alone” (Psalm 31:4).