From a Fortune Cookie

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

I was at a Chinese restaurant the other day. It had been several years since I had been there, and the food quality had gone downhill in the meantime. But at the end of the meal came the traditional fortune cookie. As I munched on the treat I read the slip of paper inside: “God will give you everything that you want.” Odd, I thought, fortunes have changed over the years as well, apparently for the better. It almost reminded me of a verse my mother has hanging on a wall at home. But as I recited the verse from memory I realized that the fortune cookie did not say exactly the same thing; the change is significant.

The verse is Philippians 4:19 which reads, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Paul told the Philippians that God would supply all their needs, but my fortune cookie would have me believe that God would supply all my wants. Most people’s wants far exceed their needs. Most parents realize that giving a child everything they want will produce a spoiled brat, but giving a child everything he needs will produce an upstanding citizen.

Paul told the Corinthians, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (II Corinthians 9:8). The abundance that God gives is not arbitrarily given. He gives so that we may do good with His riches. The Psalmist notes, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). God doesn’t richly bless everyone. His generosity is reserved for the good. Those who follow after God will see their needs provided for so well that they will not want anything more (Psalm 23:1-5; Matthew 6:25-34). But it is God who provides and not man who demands.

Yet, if we examine the context of Philippians 4:19, we see there is more to Paul’s statement. The Philippians have been generous with their goods, seeing to Paul’s needs as a preacher (Philippians 4:14-18). And Paul is stating that God would return to them blessings in kind. It is much as was written by Solomon, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself”(Proverbs 11:24-25). Or as Paul worded it, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:6-7). God is not blessing spoiled brats who demand that all their wants be fulfilled. God heaps blessings on those who use His gifts to do good in this poor world.

I would rather serve God who supplies all we need in Christ Jesus than the imaginary God of the fortune cookie writer who would create a world of disgruntled, spoiled brats. We have enough of these already, thank you very much!