fortune cookieI love fortune cookies.  While the cookie may or may not be edible, the small slip of paper inside always provides humor, intrigue or a universal wisdom. The common factor in most of these “fortunes” is that they give us something we know to be true or at least possible.  So this week I thought I’d write a fortune for you.
Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich. – Proverbs 10:4
Ruth Wells retells an ancient Japanese folktale in which the characters believe that their fortune lives in their attic in a human form of a family god.  Prosperous families have fat, swanky gods and poor families have puny, ragged gods.  In this story there is a farmer who claims to work all day and yet he is poor.  He claims that his family keeps growing but, in reality, the children fight all day, making much more noise and trouble than their number could represent.  And all the time, his wife is grumbling.
One day the farmer adopts the idea that he is poor because he has a poor god.  He and his wife devise a plan to vacate the home in the middle of the night, abandoning the poor god in the attic and set out for a new life. Surely this will bring prosperity!
But the poor god overhears the family’s evacuation plan and assumes that he will be leaving with them.  So the poor god leaves the attic and sits in the front yard making sandals from the rice stalks.  He needs many sandals for such a long journey.
When the family exits the home, by moon light, they discover the poor god.  He is all packed up and ready to go!  As a result, all is forgotten.  The farmer returns to his home and his unfulfilled life, feeling defeated.  But the poor god does not retreat to the attic.  He sits patiently and weaves sandals day after day.  The children begin to take an interest in his work so he teaches them the trade.  Soon farmers, passing by to work in the rice paddies, take an interest and begin to barter for the sandals, which are of great durability.  Before long, the poor god sits surrounded by rice, fish and fine cloth.  Finally the farmer and his wife learn the trade.
A business is born and a business grew.  Now the farmer worked very hard at his craft, his wife was not so grumpy and the children seem to balance work and play with grace.
The new year rolled around and, as Japanese culture dictates, the home was cleaned in order that a new year could be welcomed.  Just as the bells tolled, the poor god appeared and informed the family that he must leave.  Now they were rich and a new, fat god would come to live with them.  At that moment the door swung open and a fat, well dressed god appeared.  This was what the farmer, turned craftsman, had always wanted.  But the rich god was not welcomed.  The wife threw a bucket of water on his head, the children grabbed his legs and bit him and the farmer threw sandals until he retreated past the threshold of the door.  Then the farmer slammed the door shut and locked it.  That night the poor god was celebrated as an honored guest turned family member.
This story highlights what we know: true prosperity comes from the inside.  Honor your inner “poor god” and see what happens.