Charlie Opens My Mind

“So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

That’s a quote out of one of my favorite movies, the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There’s so many good quotes in that movie, but that’s my favorite. Watching that film yesterday with my kids was kind of a different experience. I had one of those spiritual enlightening moments that you’re almost confused by at first. How could Willy Wonka teach me about living a life devoted to Jesus? Well, let me share.

The scene where Mr. Wonka opens the Chocolate room reminds me of what Eden may have looked like to me as a kid. It’s a world unhindered. Beautiful. Boundless — just like God. But soon after that, sin takes over. What’s my definition on sin from this movie? It’s falling under the control of anyone but the creator. It starts with Augustus Gloop, who is ruled by food and drink. The creepy tunnel scene acknowledges that darkness takes us to a different word. It’s still the same kingdom, but we are under different rules.

Violet Beauregard comes next. Ironically, it’s not the gum chewing that takes her out. It’s her compulsion. Then comes Verruca Salt with selfishness. Lastly, Mike Teevee. Now Mike’s actually a good kid. You would think that his impulsive moment is what hurts him. But it’s not. Mike displays all out rebellion. Uncontrolled rebellion. Which, for most of us, lays dormant and so we look pretty good. But given the opportunity, always ends up hurting us.

Watching the movie with those insights reminded me of Colossians 3 (from the Message because we read too much only about sexual sin in any other translation):

1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

3-4Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

5-8And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

9-11Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life…. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

12-14So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

15-17Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

18Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master. 19Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don’t take advantage of them. 20Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end. 21Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.

22-25Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention Charlie’s failure in the bubble room. That’s for two reasons: one, Grandpa Joe led him astray, which is different than any other child’s mistake. But more importantly, Charlie is the hero. After messing up, what does he do? He showed me what this passage in scripture can look like when played out. He humbles himself and takes the blame. He refuses to get revenge on Mr. Wonka. He promotes peace. He sacrifices a life of riches. He does the right thing. In a world that has become worthless, he creates something of worth. And he’s handsomely rewarded.

I can take a lesson from Charlie. I can love more and loosen up on the who-gets-what-when mentality. I can get rid of things that have ruled me (or might still), including food, drink, worry, compulsion, rebellion, fear, pride, and selfish motives. If I do, like Charlie, I can have the Kingdom restored in my life. That’s what I’m going for. More of Christ. More of Him in me. And more of His kingdom. Now that’s good.