Mathews: Nine fortune cookies

Published 7:17 am Tuesday, November 28, 2023

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By R.A. Mathews

The plastic-wrapped cookies fill a big bowl in my local Chinese restaurant. There is no sign that says, “Only take one.” Sometimes, I take two.

I love fortune cookies. 

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I like happy books, happy films, happy shows, happy endings, which is why I love fortune cookies. Try to find one that says, “You will die alone in poverty.”

Fortune cookies promise joy! 

Jesus did the same when He famously handed out nine fortune cookies in what’s called “The Sermon on the Mount,” found in the 5th chapter of Matthew. 

I love them. 

Jesus begins by describing different types of people. I think most can guess who they are. The fun part comes next, when Jesus tells your fortune.

Take a look. Who are you?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

“Blessed are those who mourn…”

“Blessed are the gentle…”

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”

“Blessed are the merciful…”

“Blessed are the pure in heart…”

“Blessed are the peacemakers…”

As I said, Jesus then tells what you get, your fortune. Here’s the whole passage.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:1-9)

Guessing can be a light-hearted game to play with your family or even with a youth group. A slick way to learn the beatitudes or blessings, as they are called.

I chose No. 3 for a colleague as I was writing this, asking her to choose one. She had also chosen No. 3. I did the same with a loved one, choosing No. 5. That also matched. As I said, it’s fun.

I have mourned and I have worked as a peacemaker, but by nature I am No. 1. Who are the poor in spirit?

It’s probably the most difficult one to understand. Those who hunger for God. Who will never be satisfied.

Jesus has two more fortune cookies. But they are different. They aren’t so much who you are by nature, but who you are because of what has happened in your life.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great…” (Matthew 5:10-12)

Here’s the thing, it’s going to happen. If you take your stand with Christ, you will be No. 8 and No. 9. In fact, the harshest criticism may come from fellow Christians. Men and women who won’t think before they speak. Much less pray. 

They want you to get with the “modern times.” They’ll say you aren’t loving, like Jesus.

And our Lord knew that. He continues with a simple verse about how nice salt is. It preserves food. It makes dishes tasty. Unless the condiment goes bad. And then it is useless. 

Here’s the passage.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless … It is no longer good for anything…” (Matthew 5:13)

Jesus continues with the wonder of light. Everyone knows when the electric goes out there’s nothing more important than finding a battery powered light or a candle.

But Jesus said, “You are the light…” (Matthew 5:14)

You are the light.

 And He goes on to say, “Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Reach into His bowl. Stand with Jesus and find your fortune with Him.