“…For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Romans 3:22–25 (ESV)
I think we all have done things to gain God’s favor at some point in our lives. We bargain for what we desperately want or need. We stay out of trouble and keep our lives clean in order to avoid inconveniences or pain. If we’re good enough, Christian enough, we might just get what we want. We often get stuck in this false sense of the Christian God. The God who exists to grant our wishes. The God who can be appeased by good moral character or standing. Romans tells us that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift.”
Yet, we live our lives as if we can earn righteousness. What a conflicting message!
Walt Disney’s Pinocchio is ripe with conflicting messages. One of the more interesting characters in the movie, in my opinion, is the Blue Fairy. The story starts off with Jiminy Cricket telling his tale of how he happened upon a small cottage where an old wood-carver named Geppetto lived. Geppetto was a good man but he was very lonely. That night Jiminy witnesses the old man make a wish upon a star: that his newly carved puppet, Pinocchio, would become a real boy and that he would become his father. Then, the Blue Fairy appears and with the words, “Little puppet made of pine, wake, the gift of life is thine,” Pinocchio comes alive.
One of the primary messages of the movie is that dream and wish fulfillment come at no price and to anyone who desires their wishes to be granted. But the story does not play out that way. The Blue Fairy claims to have come to bestow a “gift.” Yet, her gifts come with conditions. She grants Geppetto’s wish because he is good and has brought happiness to many. When Pinocchio awakes she tells him that the wish will not be completed and he will not become a real boy until he proves himself to be brave, truthful, and selfless. He must choose right from wrong with the help of his conscience, Jiminy Cricket.
The whole movie is focused on Pinocchio failing miserably at all of that. In fact, virtually everyone he meets is the exact opposite of what he is striving to be. On his way to school, he is enticed to follow two sinister characters and begins an unfortunate journey. By the end of the story, Pinocchio ends up becoming a truant, liar, glutton, and a literal jackass before he is swallowed up by a whale.
The Blue Fairy reminds me of the common conception of God. He comes to bestow “gifts” that come with conditions and prices. He gives us our hearts’ desires only if we are good and obedient and prove ourselves worthy. He grants us grace, mercy, and love if we deserve it.
Pinocchio was never able to live up to that standard. We will never be able to either. The redemption that is available to us is a gift through Jesus Christ. It is grace and cannot be earned.
In the belly of the whale, Pinocchio finds that Geppetto, his Father, had been searching for him all the time that he was lost. Geppetto notices Pinocchio’s donkey ears and tail and asks what has happened to him. When Pinocchio is too ashamed to tell his father all the trouble he has gotten into, Geppetto pushes him no further. He embraces his son and tells him that none of it matters. Pinocchio is reconciled to his loving father.
Geppetto shows us what God is truly like. He is not the Blue Fairy, demanding our good works for the gift of life. He loves without condition and embraces his children no matter where they have been or what they have done. Through Jesus Christ, we have the free gift of salvation and eternal life in Him.