“Broke is a temporary condition. Poor is a state of mind.”

So said the fortune cookie I picked from the pile of four on the table. Sabra and I were out to dinner with our son, Travis, and his wife, and our new daughter, Amber, at a Chinese Buffet near their home in Waconia, Minnesota.

An ancient Chinese admonition to industriousness? Not so fast! The Chinese fortune cookie is as American as pizza and the double-decker taco. In fact, this message seemed to encourage a strong work ethic and could have come from Yankee Puritans (as opposed to Giant, Ranger or Phillies Puritans). Indeed, a completely predictable flower blooming from our American industrial plant. Lots of successful people have been broke from time to time, but have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started all over again. Today you’re broke, tomorrow you could be a millionaire. But if you think poor, poor you will always be. And if you let that happen, you have no one to blame but yourself. Yeah, I’d heard that line before.

But the Word of God is a powerful thing. It takes hold of words the world has misappropriated and maligned, and reclaims them for Jesus. “Blessed are the poor,” says Jesus. “I, a poor miserable sinner…,” we echo. We are told that Luther’s last words were, “We are all beggars before God.” Poor: debilitating state of mind or portal to freedom?

Well, that turns things around, eh? What may be true in the American economy does not stand up before the face of God. If I come to Him temporarily “broke”, I leave the same way. “God, I’m a little down right now, but if you help me out a bit here, I’m sure I’ll be back in the black and on my feet in no time.” You only need God when you’re weak, right? So don’t be weak. Don’t let yourself get broke. Be strong. Be good. Sounds reasonable, but that person is building wealth with credit cards, and there is an ugly day coming. Temporarily broke - for all eternity.

On the other hand, in Jesus’ economy, if I stand back in the corner with my head down and pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” as a wretched poor man, freely admitting that I was poor yesterday, I’m poor today, and I’ll be poor tomorrow - that one has the Kingdom of God.

I stand before the Lord always poor, and always well-provisioned. I am always in need, and always overflowing with His gifts. I am ever a sinner, and forever forgiven, because Jesus has taken me off the street, called me friend and brother, taken this poor man into His Father’s house and introduced me to our Dad.

Poor? Sure, always. I can live with that.

Thank you, little tan confection. You’re one smart cookie.

Peace to you in Jesus,