August 2020 —
How many of you remember the 1971 movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? I know there was also the remake by Tim Burton in 2005 with Johnny Dep as Willie Wonka, but the original version with Gene Wilder will always be my favorite. It is the story of a poor boy, Charlie Bucket, who gets swept up in a magnificent contest where those who find one of five golden tickets hidden inside Wonka Bars will be allowed in to tour the long shuttered chocolate factory, meet the elusive confectionary genius, Willy Wonka, and have the chance to win a lifetime supply of chocolate. We are introduced to a litany of characters each with their own particular story and flaws.
Within the story we find characters like Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket, Grandpa Joe, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee and Veruca Salt. Throughout the story we see event after event that exposes the flaws in each character. What you may never have realized is that those flaws coincide with what the church has labeled “the seven deadly sins”! These are (1) pride (2) greed or covetousness (3) lust (4) envy (5) gluttony (6) wrath or anger and (7) sloth (laziness). Each sin is represented in one or a combination of characters in the story. Augustus’ sin is gluttony. Violet represents pride, always wanting to be the center of attention. Even Charlie and Grandpa Joe are not innocent! Charlie “lusts” after the golden ticket and Grandpa Joe shows envy and anger as he confronts Wonka near the end of the movie.
And then there’s Veruca Salt. Veruca is, of course, representative of greed (and perhaps anger). She is a spoiled brat who has been taught by her parents that she is the center of the universe and no one else matters. She will not tolerate anything that causes her the slightest inconvenience and cannot comprehend the meaning of the words “no” or “wait”. When she demands to have a goose that lays golden eggs from the factory she is told by Wonka that she cannot have one which, in the movie, prompts a temper tantrum done up as a musical number and her now famous line, “I want it now‼”
It’s easy to laugh at the absurdity of it all and point to Veruca’s behavior as plainly reprehensible and unacceptable. But as we stand in judgement and acknowledge the moral lesson the story is trying to relay, we must also be willing to look at our own culpability and our own sin. Throughout this uncertain time of COVID-19, I have seen many examples of the “Veruca attitude” of greed and impatience demonstrated in people. There was the obvious hoarding and stockpiling of essential supplies, considering only self and no others. There is the growing, impatient anger with the inconveniences and restrictions we have all faced. And there is a growing number of people who seem to be focused only on how this affects “ME”.
So I wondered, what is the best way for Christian believers to respond to all this? What is our best attitude? That is when I found a passage in Romans 12:12 which simply instructs us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.” There is no lack of joy for those whose hearts are set on the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our hope is in him and our strength comes from his grace. The believer endures suffering with patience because we know that it is only temporary and the forces of destruction and evil in this world are defeated already in the power of the cross. When nothing else makes sense and we feel lost, we can turn to God in prayer and pour out our souls to Him. God is faithful to hear our prayers and comfort the downhearted, to strengthen the weak and encourage the weary.
There is nothing the world can throw at us that is not already conquered in Christ. Even death itself has no power over the believer! So let us take heart and bear witness to our faith in Jesus Christ so that others may see in us the calm assurance that marks the life of a Christian. Perhaps in seeing us they will want to know why we are so at peace. It is a perfect time to tell them about Jesus.
Peace to you,