Friday, January 18, 2008

Fortune Cookies Are Right

...sort of.

I was in a meeting last night with some very smart people who also happen to make a lot of money. Because I would love to become smarter and make more money so I can do cool things, I was very disappointed when the leader spouted off several statements that were little better, if not worse, than some of the things we had read in our fortune cookies over dinner.

First, allow me to touch on a point that I think very much is true and came to mind during the meeting: "Stewardship" has allowed Christians to tip very poorly. If you, or anyone you know, has ever worked waiting tables, you know that Christians--especially in large "fellowshipping" groups on Sunday--leave terrible tips... if that much. This has long been a misery and mystery to the people serving food on Sundays. I've wondered about it as well, knowing that I too would tend to not tip. "Stewardship" (taking care of what one has) is a likely culprit (and the fact that we are greedy and don't trust God to provide but consider that's okay because at least we aren't sleeping around). Since we are told over and over to be good stewards of our resources, we have justified our stinginess. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some people didn't tithe because they were trying to be a "better steward" of their money. But now I'm way off topic.

Fortune cookies.

It is quite possible to make a statement or prediction almost universally true if it is generic enough. For instance:

You have a strong need to take your thoughts in your own direction and may find it difficult to compromise. Originality is favored here, but dealing with routine activities can be a bit of a challenge. This is a dynamic period in which nothing seems to be standing still, especially you. Even if you are calm on the outside, it is likely that your insides will be jumping around. This restlessness can lead to hasty actions but may also motivate you to make some changes in your daily life.

I just pulled that off the first horoscope page I found. Wow! That's me... almost. I love all the wishy-washy phrases: "may find" "can be" "it is likely" "can lead" "but may also". Obviously tailored to my exact experience. Most of the time these kinds of statements are true because you make them true.

So, what do you think about the following, given that you have belief structure that assumes God created everything and saved your soul:

Which of the following is the question we should answer:
  • 1. What should I do with my money?
  • 2. What should I do with God's money?
  • 3. What does God want me to do with His money?

  • Obviously, we were told, it is 3, but "sadly" we all act like it is 2. Sounds good, right? Yes, but it's about as true as my horoscope.

    Granted, God is in control of everything and everything is His. However, the reason we ask question 2 instead of 3 is not because we feel like we'd do a better job than God, but because we do not have a "prime directive" of what we are supposed to do with God's money. Thus, we ask: What should I do with it? Let us not become confused.

    At the end of the meeting I asked what I should do if I felt like I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but that it didn't make any money. I was told that if I had talent, passion, and God's purpose behind me it would make money. When I challenged this idea, I was told that perhaps it "wasn't time yet" and God was still working on me before He'd pour out the floodgates of Heaven.


    Perhaps not. How would we know? It's a fortune cookie statement. I could make it true, or I could reject it like the half-butted comment that it is. There's not truth in that statement, just what truth I impart to it. Since I'm hardly the standard for what is true, let's not trust me.

    How many good things, with talent, passion, and God's purpose behind them struggle? Many. Most? I'm not sure, but it certainly isn't only a handful. Too many ministries are constantly scraping by and calling for more funds for the advice I was given to be true.

    Which leads to the last untruth: God has blessed our family with much wealth because He looked into our lives and saw that we could do great things for His Kingdom.

    It's true as long as you only look at the self-serving bits. Do my parents do great things for God's Kingdom? Definitely. Did God give them their wealth that has allowed them to do this? Certainly. Does that mean that God gives money (and remember that He owns everything, so has everything to give) to certain individuals because He saw what a great impact that could have on people if He did? No. There are far too many rich jerks in the world for that to be "the reason" God blesses some people with wealth.

    The world isn't as simple as we'd like it to be. Does that mean I'm against reading my fortune cookies? No. But it does mean that when I read them I smile because the wisdom therein is imputed from me.

    Well, I've got to go shower quickly because I'll be a little late for work.

    ~Luke Holzmann

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