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Fortune Cookie Christianity: Bible Study’s Pitfall

Every Christian has their favorite verses. They even have Bible promises they keep tucked away for those hard days, myself included. This is a good thing. The Psalms tell us to keep the Word hidden in our hearts, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with such verses. Yet, there is a danger if that’s all we think the Bible is. We cannot approach the Bible as if it were a fortune cookie offering good words to those who crack it open. I call this mindset fortune cookie Christianity, or golden nugget Christianity.

In this week’s tip we will look at how the fortune cookie Christianity approach to the Bible can derail your time in God’s Word. In addition, we will look at how these nuggets and promises can be used properly, including tips on how to avoid falling into this bad habit.

The Fortune Cookie Christianity Approach

There’s no denying that the Bible is a big and sometimes difficult book to understand. Because of that, we too often like to stick with what’s comfortable. Instead of pushing ourselves to grow, we keep to the familiar passages we can easily understand and apply to our lives. One way this problem manifests itself is when we continually study the same passages instead of working through new or more difficult parts of the Bible.

Similarly, there is the “OPRA” method which we referenced a couple tips ago. This method has you opening your Bible to a random passage and trying to find application from it. Even with this approach, we’re likely to avoid the majority of the Old Testament unless it’s something like Proverbs. This just isn’t a good approach and there are better ways to study the Bible.

This is also the reason why daily devotionals can be problematic in your Bible study. Unless you’re choosing wisely, a lot of the devotionals will only focus on the more popular Bible passages, so you never get a wider knowledge of Scripture.

It all boils down to this: we would much rather read the verses that make us feel good, as opposed to the ones that challenge us to change our lives.

What good is a promise like Mark 11:24 that tells us God will give us whatever we ask for in prayer if we believe if we do not learn to pray according to his will? Or, did you know there’s a catch to God giving you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4)? The key is your delight and desire has to be for the Lord, not yourself.

Christians would rather read verses that make them feel good instead of digging into passages that will change their lives. Share on X

Fortune Cookies Aren’t All Bad

When I go to a Chinese restaurant, I love getting my fortune cookie (as long as it’s not stale). Even though I don’t give it any real consideration, I still like reading my fortune. In much the same way, tucking away nuggets from the Bible is not a bad thing. They have their place in the Christian life.

Alongside my time in God’s Word, it is often these nuggets that bubble up to the surface to help me in life’s difficult moments. For example, when my daughter, Harmony, passed away, there were many passages that came to mind that brought me comfort. My heart was encouraged by Romans 8:28, knowing that because I love God all things will work together for my good. I knew from 2 Corinthians 1 that I have the God of all comfort who enables others to come alongside me. King David’s response to the loss of his own children brought me comfort. Likewise, Job’s response of “blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) brought life to my soul.

But, how did I get to this point? There are two spiritual disciplines that helped: 1) Scripture memorization, and 2) biblical meditation. The combination of these two, in conjunction with my regular Bible study enabled me to recall God’s Word. Even my sermon notes helped, as I recall taking copious notes on 2 Corinthians when my pastor taught through it.

So, yes, if fortune cookie Christianity is all you have, you’re in trouble. But, if it is part of a balanced diet, it can prove quite beneficial. That said, let’s look at how to avoid the pitfalls of this poor study method.

Scripture memory & biblical meditation are two ways to get the most out of Scripture's golden nuggets. Share on X

The Solution to Fortune Cookie Christianity

What can we do, as students of God’s Word, to avoid falling prey to fortune cookie Christianity? There are a few things we can do.

1. Eat the Main Course

Instead of going straight for the feel good portions of Scripture, make sure you also read the savory portions as well. Just like too many sweets will upset your stomach and provide minimum sustenance, not getting the substance of the Bible will stunt your growth.

Read verses within their context. Don’t read a verse or two in isolation. Read the surrounding passages, whether that be a section or chapter(s). When you eat from the whole of Scripture you will see the larger picture and appreciate those promises all the more.

2. Memorize the Big Promises

Often, we like to memorize the Bible verses like the ones mentioned above. They make us feel confident in God’s ability to bless us and that he is there for us. There is nothing wrong with those verses, but we should also make time to memorize some of God’s bigger promises.

What are those promises? I’m talking about salvation promises. Verses like Romans 5:1-2 that speak of our justification & access to God, or James 1:5 where we are promised wisdom to combat trials, or even 1 John 1:9 that promises forgiveness of sin for those who repent.

These promises are just as true as the others, but have a daily impact on how we walk before others and the Lord.

Don't just learn the Bible promises that make you feel good. Learn the ones that will help you grow and mature. Share on X

3. Live Out the Promises

It’s one thing to claim a promise, but it’s another thing entirely to live it out. I say claim all the promises of the Bible!

But you cannot just claim a promise. You must live it out. If you’re going to call on the Lord in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15), you have to be willing to honor the Lord & do the hard task of following him. You must know that claiming Romans 8:28 doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life, but it means that even in the darkest times God has a plan for it and will use it for your good and sanctification.

Walk Worthy

Several times in Scripture Paul uses the phrase “walk worthy.” That’s how I want you to live your Christian life.

Whatever Bible promise you proclaim over your life, live it out and walk worthy of it. Study the Bible and do what it says. Grow in your faith and watch those promises come true. If you do this, you will avoid falling prey to fortune cookie Christianity.

What are some of your favorite Bible promises? In what ways can you better live them out moving forward?

Weekly Study Prompts

This week, meditate and journal on the following passages:

  • Monday – John 11; Matthew 21:1-13
  • Tuesday – John 13
  • Wednesday – John 14-15
  • Thursday – John 16
  • Friday – Matthew 24:1-31
  • Memory Verses: John 13:34-35; 15:4-5

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