“Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.”
– The Great Gatsby
I’m going to try this thing. It’s a new thing.
You see, I’m a huge fan of movies. I don’t just watch them to be entertained, I watch them to try and make sense of the world, as if the world can be made sense of. When I watch movies or read books or hear stories, I often find myself trying to find Biblical themes in those stories. I truly believe God is the biggest artist of them all, and so of course He is trying to talk to us through stories! Art, to me, is one prominent way in which God speaks.
In the Bible, Jesus constantly spoke to people through parables. Parables are stories illustrating a deeper message. If you look at any work of art, you will recognize how it also exhibits a parallel about life.
The Great Gatsby is no exception. This brings me back to what I was saying earlier: I’m going to try this thing. It’s a new thing where I’m going to talk about modern movies/books and write about how we can take Biblical themes from those stories. But if you don’t want to hear spoilers, then maybe you shouldn’t read these specific posts.
So without further ado: The Great Gatsby.
The Great Gatsby is a story about a man who observes the life of his wealthy, mysterious neighbor, Gatsby. He starts to hang around an eccentric, extremely privileged crowd which somewhat contaminates his innocence. This crowd is overall selfish, and in constant desire of the pursuit of the American Dream. In short, to the naked eye, they have it all. Wealth. Beauty. Youth. And friends of the same sort.
What more could they ask for?
Yet, the ending of the story reveals how shallow this world is. Though Gatsby has thrown parties in great abundance, his funeral is much less extravagant than his parties. People only wanted him for what he could give them. My favorite scene in the most recent adaptation of the film is when Gatsby asks Nick Carraway for a favor in which Nick says Gatsby does not need to return the favor. It’s only a favor and he is happy to do it. In the scene, Gatsby seems a little thrown off at this — at a man who asks for nothing in return.
The truth is, we often use people to suit our own agendas. We might be friends with a person because they make us feel better about ourselves. We might put people down to raise our own self esteem. The instant someone comes along who is more talented/wealthier/more beautiful than us, our self esteem halts to a stop. We can’t use that person to raise our own self esteem, we can only try to learn from them humbly or run away from them before others see how weak we are. It is often a blow to the old ego.
But the Bible says,
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Where are you putting your treasure? In people’s opinions on this Earth? In who you’re friends with? In your career? In your family?
Just like Gatsby, many of us choose to use these things to improve our worth in other’s eyes. We put our treasure on this Earth. But, in the end, it is going to be worthless. And just like Gatsby, we are going to miss out on a fundamental characteristic to happiness: Contentment. At any point, these shallow things we put our worth in can be destroyed. Yet, the Bible says to store up treasures in heaven. If we find our worth in who we are in Christ, then nobody can touch it. We can be who we are freely. We can love others without using them. We can find hope in something true and honest that won’t be regrettable in the end.