Aladdin is easily one of my top five favorite Disney movies of all time. Back when VHS tapes was a thing, Aladdin was one of those movies I handled with care. I made sure the black magnetic tape did not become loosened or undone. Princess Jasmine was Aladdin's love interest. I remember I had a purple and pink Princess Jasmine T-shirt as a child. I even remember my mom made me a Princess Jasmine cake one year for my birthday. It was topped with a Princess Jasmine figurine as well as a Rajah figurine (Jasmine's pet tiger). Ah! The sweet feeling of nostalgia…
One of the main characters of the movie is the one and only Genie. The big, blue genie with an even bigger personality could grant anyone who rubbed his golden lamp three wishes. Although the concept of a genie may seem completely fictional, some may argue that God appears to be painted as a genie in some scriptures. In fact, many people only call on God when they desire something from Him. So in essence, God is viewed as a genie to many. Here is a bible verse in which one may think that God is uncannily similar to a genie.
John 14: 13–14 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Sounds like a genie, no?
Yet, I once heard a preacher say whenever you remove text from context you end up with a con. I couldn’t agree more. This very verse is where much of prosperity preaching stems from. Now let me be crystal clear, I am a FIRM believer in faith and the wonders it can do. Check out my article, All Packed Up With No Place to Go as a reference. God is so incredibly great and He allows us to prosper and enjoy many of life’s luxuries. However, too much prosperity preaching can be damaging. Our perception of God being our personal genie is simply not accurate. In verse 12 of John 14, Jesus says the following:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
Jesus is speaking of works here - works for the Kingdom of God. Right before Jesus grants us what appears to be our genie wishes, he states that we must do work. This is exactly why context is key. If we examine works, we discover that faith without works is dead per James 2. That basically means we can believe that God will do incredible things for us, but if we are not working for His kingdom, then our faith is in vain.
If you only have faith in God because of what he can do for you, then you are using God as a genie. But when you have faith and work for His kingdom, you bring glory back to God. Works in the kingdom will allow you to serve others and in turn serve God. The thin line between God and genie is this: A genie does whatever you want based on your will. God does whatever you want in Jesus’s name as long as it is within His Will.
And what is God's Will? His will is for His followers to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to perform works by helping others, which only brings glory back to God.
Look at verse 13 again.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
It is common that the first part of the verse is quoted, while the latter part is left out. Yet, the latter part is most essential part of the verse. Glory has to go back to God in all that we do. Our request from God must in some way glorify His name.
Earlier I mentioned prosperity preaching and how it can be damaging. I stand by my statement. If we focus too much on what God can do for us versus what we can do for God, it defeats the entire purpose of Christianity. We are called to serve God and others. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless. Matthew 25: 35–40 reads:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me.
Too much focus on yourself will not allow you to perform the work that Christians are put here to do. Too much focus on yourself will make you think God is here to serve you instead of you being here to serve God. Shift your focus. In Matthew 6 it states seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. We must be kingdom focused, not self-seeking.
Now, I do want to assure you that there’s nothing wrong with having an abundant life (King Solomon was filthy rich).There’s nothing wrong with asking God for a new job, a new house, a business opportunity, a diploma, etc. God said to make our request known to him with prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving (Philippians 4). He delights in providing for us.
The problem is when we seek God only for selfish gain. King Solomon was completely selfless in his request to God. God told Solomon that he would give him whatever he asked for. Solomon did not ask for money or women. He didn't ask for a mansion or fancy clothes. He asked God for wisdom. Not because he wanted to be the smartest man on earth but because he wanted to lead his people in a just manner.
It was a selfless request. His selflessness pleased God; therefore, God granted him wisdom and astronomical wealth. You see, God is so much more than a three-wish granting genie. Just think about how blown away Solomon was in discovering that God gives us more than what we ask for. Per Ephesians 3:20, He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think. He is sovereign, the Great I AM, the beginning and end — not a genie limited to granting a mere three wishes. But we have to make room for God’s work within the kingdom. And until we look beyond ourselves and our own selfish desires, we will limit and insult God in believing that He is a just a mere genie.