Understanding Divine Blessing: Does the Prosperity Gospel Get It Right? (w/ Book Review)

The biblical concept of “blessing”—as in being blessed and blessing others—is not a topic any church I’ve attended focused on, so when I had the opportunity to read and review Divine Blessing and the Fullness of Life in the Presence of God by William R. Osborne, I took it. This is the second book I’ve read from Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, where in relatively short, readable books a certain theme is explored throughout the Bible. As a former high school English teacher, I have a bit of a thing for themes, and I found both books helpful, accessible introductions to important subjects of biblical theology. Biblical theology is the practice of tracing a particular theme or idea throughout the entire biblical story and connecting the dots.

Divine blessing isn’t a topic I’ve explored before, but being familiar with the Bible I knew “blessing” is a word that comes up quite a bit. As both an apologist and pastor, this was a topic I needed to grasp because of the prevalence of the “prosperity gospel” and “health and wealth gospel.” Even if a Christian doesn’t subscribe to the false prosperity gospel, understanding biblical blessings is essential to addressing a sort of prosperity gospel thinking that intersects with the problem of evil and suffering. This is the thinking that expects God to always intervene in times of trouble. This is the person who asks when they hit a rough patch in life, “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?” with the underlying idea that God should never let anything bad happen to his people.

Let’s be honest, a lot of evidence exists both in and out of the Bible that doesn’t support the idea that if you’re a “good” Christian you get blessings and if you’re “bad” you’re cursed. If the apostle Paul can ask God three times to remove the “thorn” in his flesh and God refuses (2 Cor. 12:1–10), then that destroys the whole health and wealth gospel thesis right there. So, as Osborne asks, “What about when God’s covenant people live faithfully, trusting in his word, and still experience tragedy and sorrow?” Further, there appears to be “a theological rift” between the Old and New Testaments’ portrayals of divine blessing. The Old “seems focused on the material wealth, health, and success of the faithful,” while the New “portrays the most faithful as martyred and imprisoned.” 

In addressing all of these issues, Divine Blessing and the Fullness of Life in the Presence of God is a welcomed (and much-needed) help.

THE BASICS OF BIBLICAL BLESSING

In the rest of this blog, let me give you some insights into what the Bible says about divine blessing. To start, here are some basics:

  • “God’s blessings for his people are relational, spiritual, material, present, and eschatological [future].”
  • Like when exploring any biblical concept, we need to differentiate between the Old Covenant (exclusive to ancient Israel) and the New Covenant (for Christ’s people) when talking about divine blessings.
  • Where blessings under the Old Covenant is exclusive to ancient Israel, not Christians, and “the material wealth, health, and success of the faithful” appears to be part of that covenant, the Bible also often portrays these blessings as stumbling blocks. 
  • Both the Old and New Covenants have a spiritual and physical aspect of blessing. “[D]ivine blessing was always intended to be material, spiritual, [but also] relational.” That it, based on a relationship with God, which is the ultimate blessing within itself.
  • All biblical blessing is “fixed upon the reality of the fullness of life in the presence of God,” which includes being in a right relationship with God and God dwelling with his people. “True blessing, no matter the form, always leads us near to God.” “Unlike what is commonly heard in prosperity [gospel] circles, you don’t go through God to get his blessings. Conversely, we might say you go through his blessings to get to God! God is the end to be pursued because his blessing is experienced only by living in his presence.” 
  • Divine blessing coincides with obedience to God’s will, which include his divine directives and commands. Living according to God’s wisdom brings consequential blessings, which is rooted also in a proper fear or respect of the Lord (Prov. 1:7). 
  • God always intended to bless his people and for his people to be a blessing to others.
  • God is under no obligation to bless or guarantee a certain fullness of life. We have privileges as Christians as God’s children, but these aren’t rights. As I like to say, we can’t sum up God’s ways in a mathematical formula. In other words, we can’t put God in a box.
  • In one sense, the delay of God’s wrath is a blessing!

BLESSING IN THE BIBLICAL STORY

God created to bless. We see three blessings found in the creation narrative. Before the fall, humankind was to “experience the fullness of life in God’s presence in the garden.” Humankind was to walk in the presence of God (quite literally before the fall). Humankind was also to be a blessing to creation by fulfilling God’s “creation/cultural mandate” to be fruitful and fill the earth and be stewards of creation. But the first man and woman screwed this all up. In the post-fall world, God put another plan into effect to bless the world:

Now the Lord said to Abram [Abraham], “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1–3)

So, God chooses a person to bless, and through that person he will bless the whole world. Through Abraham, God will build a people—Israel—to be a blessing to the world. Of course, the biblical story shows the Messiah—Jesus of Nazareth—is a descendant of Abraham. The “promise land” God will give Abraham’s people will serve as a light—a blessing—foreshadowing the new creation (“the new heaven and new earth”) ushered in by Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant, which is specific to Israel, God makes a covenant of blessing and cursing. Material blessing is part of this, including health and fertility/procreation. Under the Old Covenant this is conditional, based on Israel’s upholding their side of the covenant; they must obey and be loyal to their God. But at the same time, God has made an unconditional commitment to bless his people regardless. In the fallen world, whether under the Old Covenant or New Covenant, this will only ever see partial fulfillment. Those bemoaning a lack of blessings are too shortsighted and need to keep focused on the future new creation where God’s people will live with him.

Further, “in a fallen world, the way to divine blessing always involves suffering.” See Luke 9:23–26 and Romans 8:17, but this is seen in the Old Testament as well. For instance, “Jacob’s life challenges our simplistic categories of ‘do good things and be blessed’ or ‘you are blessed so nothing hurts.’ In Jacob’s limp we see God’s severe mercy going to great lengths to produce the transformation and blessing in our lives, but not always in the way we wanted.”

As we leave the Old Testament and enter the New Testament era under the New Covenant, “For all the promises [and, thus, blessings] of God find their Yes in him [in Christ]” (2 Cor 1:20). “[I]n the New Testament, blessing is always specifically in Christ” and Christ’s blessings can’t be disconnected from eternal life and the Kingdom of God. With this, the Holy Spirit is another blessing to Jesus’ people, who also empowers them to bless others. The indwelling Holy Spirit, along with Jesus’ resurrection (and even the church itself), are down-payments—assurances—of the coming fulfillment of divine blessing in the future new creation, ushered in by Christ. In the New Testament—under the New Covenant (Luke 22:20)—we experience the “partial fulfillment” (the “already/not yet” nature) of God’s blessing, which will be fulfilled when Christ returns. Even the Old Covenant’s physical blessings are a foreshadowing of the material blessing in the new creation, where there will be no more hunger, sickness, or death, and every tear will be wiped away (Rev 21). Again, those bemoaning a lack of blessings are too shortsighted.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3). 

So, Christ’s people already have “every spiritual blessing” in heaven at this very moment, yet full experience of God’s blessings won’t be obtained until the New Heaven and New Earth. As Osborne puts it: Cross, then Crown (for both Christ, and Christ’s people). But Christ’s people are also blessed because God will use all their suffering for our good (Rom 8:32). “If our notions of divine blessing require freedom from suffering or persecution, then our hope is grounded in the wrong thing, or maybe the wrong age.”

Osborne proposes a great test for the believer: “Does this ‘blessing’ draw me closer to the triune God? Does this need being met bring me nearer to the giver, or is it a distraction? No perceived ‘good gift’ will ever drive you away from the Lord.” 

(Crossway provided a free copy of this book for me to review.)

Disasters, Disease, & Death — Why is there Natural Suffering?

QUESTION: If God is perfect and God created the heavens and the earth, shouldn’t then this world be perfect if it was created by God?  If God is perfect, why does he allow or cause so much pain and strife?  We could blame many things on humans because much of the strife is caused by humans such as starvation, murder, slavery and other horrific acts perpetuated by people, but what about things beyond our control?  Why do tens of thousands of people die in super storms?  Why are people born disabled? Why do children get sick and die? Why would God allow such things if he was a perfect and loving God?

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As you said, much of the suffering in the world could be avoided; it’s caused by human sin and evil because God gave humans freewill. Yet we’re still left with the question of what I’ll call natural suffering: suffering caused by natural disasters, disease, and even accidental suffering and death from things like car accidents, exposure to weather, or, say, someone slipping and falling to their death.

Hurricane from space

Let me start with a more “worldly” answer and move into what the Bible teaches: The most basic answer is to say that these are the natural consequences of living in our life-giving world.  Extreme weather, earthquakes, and tsunamis are going to happen on our planet, the only planet that we know of that can sustain life.

Someone might criticize God and say, “If he’s so powerful, why couldn’t he just create a world without those things?”  First, it’s easy to be an arm-chair creator of the universe and say we’d do things differently, but obviously we’re not in the position to know better.  Secondly, certain possible bad things are going to logically follow from things that are not just good but essential.  For instance, if we’re going to have gravity so we stay on our planet’s surface and don’t just float off into space, it’s going to logically follow that gravity may kill a person if they step off something high enough.

Furthermore, if God intervened in every situation that would cause us harm, can you imagine what life would be like?  It’d be like living into your 50’s and still having your mom hovering over your every move like when you first learned to walk.  Also, if this was the case, you can pretty much kiss freewill goodbye.

Someone might then ask why God can’t just intervene in particularly bad instances — perhaps “big” situations — like preventing a super storm.  But how can we know he doesn’t intervene sometimes – or even a lot of times?  Not long ago, my mom had a stroke, but she fully recovered quickly and the side effects, like partial loss of the one side of her body, were gone within days.  The doctors were perplexed, and we were all amazed.  My mom, who tends to be a “half-empty” type, was talking about the stroke and said to me something like: “Why would God allow this to happen to me?”  I responded, “How do you know God didn’t intervene and, in fact, protect you from the stroke?”

COMMON GRACE & THE CURSE

The Bible writers teach that in God’s providence, he does interact with the world.  Why he intervenes sometimes and not others, I can’t say for sure because I don’t have the mind of God.  But in Christian theology, there is a doctrine called “common grace.”  This is the idea that due to sin, the world should be much worse than it is, yet God shows mercy and allows us to still enjoy the good things of this earth he created.

Common grace means even nonbelievers benefit from God’s good creation and mercy, which can include everything from their innate sense of morals, to meaningful relationships, to the beauty of nature, to food, music, and sex.  The difference though between the believer and nonbeliever is that the believer recognizes these good things are from God and they worship the Creator instead of the creation.

So, this moves us right into what the Bible teaches about natural suffering.  In Genesis, after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, a curse comes upon all of creation.  God says to Adam,

“…Cursed is the ground because of you;

In toil you will eat of it

All the days of your life.

Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;

And you will eat the plants of the field;

By the sweat of your face

You will eat bread,

Till you return to the ground,

Because from it you were taken;

For you are dust,

And to dust you shall return.”

What this is showing is that mankind will no longer have the privilege of living in God’s garden, a place were food comes easy, but will have to toil and sweat to produce food.  In Romans 8, Paul writes of all of creation being in “bondage to corruption” and “groaning,” waiting to be set free from the weight of sin.  Further, God clearly tells Adam before the Fall that death is the outcome of sin.  Thus, death is not a natural part of God’s good creation.

drought

GOD’S GOODNESS & WRATH

Now, a thoughtful person may ask where the curse came from and point out that God was the one who put the curse on the creation.  This is true; God is the sovereign Lord over all creation and only he has the power to do such a thing.  But I’d argue that he had no choice.  That might sound shocking to both nonbelievers and believers.  It’s God!  Of course he had a choice!  But God’s nature is wholly good, holy, and just.  Often, people like to focus on the goodness of God and they try to forget the just wrath of God, but God’s goodness and his wrath are connected and cannot be separated.

People with kids can understand this; a parent should love his or her children unconditionally and show them understanding and mercy, but a parent who never disciples his or her children is not just a poor example of a parent, but actually doing something unloving.  Can I claim to be good, and at the same time turn a blind eye to evil and injustice?  Because God in his very nature is good and just, sin must be punished.  To not punish sin would go against God’s very nature and that’s something God can’t do.

If God simply overlooks sin, then he is no longer good, and if he’s no longer good, then he’s no longer God.  Those who think God can simply overlook sin don’t have a high enough view of God or a low enough view of sin.

God can’t break the laws of logic (such as he can’t make a square circle) and he can’t do something contrary to his own nature.  Thus, God is not to be blamed for the curse, but Adam and Eve.  Notice God tells Adam the curse came “because of you.”  God is no more guilty of the curse than a police officer is guilty for arresting a person for committing a crime or a judge is guilty for sentencing the criminal to prison.

Further, God still shows mercy in this situation.  Adam and Eve were warned that the outcome of sin is death (both physically and spiritually), but God doesn’t kill them immediately, yet now death will become a normal part of life.  Moreover, even when God kicks them out of the garden, he shows the lovingness of a Father by making them clothes from animal skins (Genesis 3:21).

The Bible goes on to tell the story of the continuing corruption of God’s good creation by man’s sinfulness, yet throughout we see God showing mercy.  Even when he destroys most of mankind with the flood, he spares Noah and his family; even when he allows sinful Israel to be taken into captivity by Babylon, he preserves a remnant.  And then this brings us right back to common grace.  If God withdrew all of his blessings from us, the world would be a much more horrible place (whether because of human evil or natural catastrophe) or just a desolate, lifeless rock floating in space — or, most likely, nothing would exist at all.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF LUKE 13:1-5

Finally, God showed the ultimate act of mercy by becoming a man himself and suffering for the sins of the world, so we could be free from the curse of death.  Once you understand that, your view of the suffering in the world changes.  Once you understand that, you realize God has done all he needs to – actually, more than he needs to.

Jesus says something very interesting in Luke 13:1-5:

“Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Here, we have two events being discussed by Jesus and his audience: Roman governor Pontius Pilate seemingly unjustly killing several people (what I would consider suffering due to human sin on the part of Pilate) and a tower that has randomly collapsed onto 18 people, killing them (what I would place in the category of natural suffering).  The crowd that Jesus is speaking to seems to think these people were worse sinners than others and God punished them by bringing these horrible deaths upon them.

Notice Jesus’ response: he basically says that these people were no worse sinners than all of you (us), so you (we) all need to repent of your (our) sins and get right with God.

We can get important theological lessons from this, especially in connection to the curse on creation in Genesis 3.  We are all deserving of punishment, but when bad things happen to us, we can understand them in two ways:

(A) the direct result of sin and

(B) the indirect result of sin.

When a person’s sinful behavior brings about logical negative consequences, this is suffering (either their own or others’) due to the direct result of sin.  For example, a man cheats on his wife and his wife leaves him, tearing the family apart.  On the other hand, when a person suffers because of a random, natural occurrence or accident (such as cancer, natural disaster, or a tower falling on them), this is not the direct result of their sin (so we aren’t to assume they did something that brought God’s wrath directly upon them) but an indirect result of sin because we live in a fallen world cursed by Adam’s, Eve’s, and all of our sins.

Jerusalem_Tower

ONE LAST THING: THE ONLY SOLUTION

I have one last thing to add:

If I were consoling a person who had just experienced a great tragedy, I wouldn’t go into all of this.  The last thing that person needs at that moment is an exposition of biblical theology.  But I’d share what God tells us through the Bible: God loves us, and he is with us in our suffering.  When Joseph (in Genesis) and Paul (in Acts) are unjustly imprisoned, we’re told God is with them.

But most importantly, we don’t worship a God who sits far off in the heavens, judging us from a distance.  We worship a God who loved us so amazingly he became man and suffered and died the most humiliating and agonizing death just so we can know him.  Our God knows what it is to suffer.  He knows what it is to be hungry, to weep for dead loved ones, to be betrayed by friends, and to be tortured and die.  When God looks at the state of this world, he is heartbroken; he weeps and suffers with us.

The writers of the Bible teach that though God may not stop all suffering from happening, he will use all things, including suffering and evil, for a greater good.  The greatest example of this is Jesus Christ’s suffering on the cross.  Evil had thought it had won a great victory, but God used that event to defeat evil, sin, and death and free us from the bondage of our sins.  The suffering we experience will lead us to greater things.  As Christians, we no longer fear death and we wait for Jesus Christ to return to put a final end to pain and suffering.

John writes of his vision of the new earth in Revelation 21, what I consider some of the most beautiful words written in the Bible:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’”

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***One of the reasons I started this blog is to address the questions of my friends, whether they be atheists, agnostics, Christians, or of other faiths.  I don’t propose to have all the answers, but by addressing these questions I hope it will benefit everyone involved, including myself and those who take the time to read this blog.***

  • This question was asked by my friend Ian J. Keeney, a former Satanist/atheist, and director of the documentary The Meaning.
  • Read my response to: Did God Make the Entire Universe for Humans?  *here* and Is the Bible anymore accurate than other religious texts? *here*
  • Read my interview with Ian & learn more about The Meaning: Part 1 & Part 2*cross-silhouette1

What BREAKING BAD Teaches Us About Evil

*Before knowing anything about Vince Gilligan’s intentions, it struck me early while watching the series that Breaking Bad is making a statement about the nature of evil.*

***SPOILER ALERT: I discuss the TV series Breaking Bad as a whole and the final episodes in the following***

breaking-bad

The premise of Breaking Bad is an attention grabber: A high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, after learning he has cancer, starts “cooking” the illegal drug meth (methamphetamine) with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, so he can leave his family with plenty of money before he dies.  The show is a perfect blend of character and plot.  Fully actualized characters (brought to life by strong acting) and a plot that the series’ creator, Vince Gilligan, has kept fresh after several seasons (unlike so many other TV shows) has made it one of my all-time favorite shows.

Before knowing anything about Vince Gilligan’s intentions, it struck me early while watching the series that Breaking Bad is making a statement about the nature of evil.

Moral relativists deny that there is an actual thing we can call evil, stating that right and wrong are on a sliding scale from culture to culture or even person to person.  Where there is some truth in this, I have found that these arguments against the existence of universal evil are primarily weak ones.  One only has to bring up such horrible things as cannibalism or the Holocaust or murdered children to quickly see that there are things all people consider evil.  We have an innate sense of morality that points towards universal moral laws.

Occasionally, a moral relativist may bring up an objection like: “There are primitive tribes that practice cannibalism, and they don’t think it’s wrong” or “The Nazis didn’t believe they were doing anything wrong.”  My response would be that people who break these universal moral laws still know what they’re doing is evil.  When I was younger, I read a lot about serial killers.  I wanted to know why they did what they did.  Some of these serial killers have done unspeakable things that I would not write about here and rather not even think about.  Yet, no matter how twisted — mentally and emotionally — these people were, they still had a sense they were doing wrong.

Further, often those who do evil attempt to justify the action by connecting it to something virtuous.  For instance, some tribes that practice cannibalism try to justify it by reasoning that it will give the consumer the powers of his enemy for the betterment of the tribe.  Even in a culture that practices cannibalism, there is a sense that cannibalism is only done to an enemy.  One doesn’t eat grandma simply because he’s hungry and grandma is an easy target.

Likewise, people justify their inhumane treatment of other people in a very simple way: they deny that their enemy is human.  Is this not how Nazi Germany justified the horrific things they did during the Jewish Holocaust?  So, a Nazi would say treating a fellow Nazi like a Jew is morally wrong, and a member of a cannibalistic tribe would say the sort of cannibalism like American serial killer Jeffery Dahmer did is morally wrong.  The innate sense of morality we all have can be suppressed by justifying evil behavior with a morally superior reason or even by removing the humanness of the victims of our evil.  The need to justify the evil behavior is evidence of this innate, universal morality.

BreakingBadzz

In Breaking Bad, we see a similar mindset.  Walter White, an otherwise moral man, a high school teacher and loving family man, starts cooking and selling meth, an evil act.  Walt knows this is evil, but he justifies this as something he must do to provide for his family.  In his mind, the end justifies the means.  Providing for his family is a good thing; in fact, some of us would say it’s the most natural thing for a man to do for his wife and children.  This further shows that evil is dependant on good.

Some Christian philosophers go so far as to argue that evil is not an actual thing, but not in the same way that the moral relativists do.  These philosophers’ idea is that evil is simply the absence of good.  If God is all-good and holy and the creator of all things, then he could not have created evil.  Augustine considered evil as “not something that exists.”  Scholar John Frame explains that evil is “a lack, a defect in a good universe… an absence of good where good should be” and “a deprivation of being.”  The biblical teaching that the world was created good but corrupted by evil supports this view (Genesis 1:31; 1 Timothy 4:4).

Likewise, in his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis argues that evil cannot exist without good, but good can exist without evil.  He explains evil essentially wants things that are not inherently evil — like pleasure, comfort — but pursues them in the wrong way.  Walter White is an example of this.  He wants to care for his family, even after his death — a good, honorable thing — but he uses an evil means to achieve this good thing.  Apologist Frank Turek explains evil as rust: you can’t have rust without a car; take away the car and rust cannot exist.  Even money itself is not inherently evil, but some people’s love of it and their means of getting it are evil.  Thus, as C.S. Lewis writes, “evil is a parasite, not an original thing.”

But even if a person convinces himself that his evil acts are justified by a greater good, no one can dabble in evil and not be affected by evil.  Walter’s plan, at first, was to be in the meth business only long enough to build up a good savings of money for his family and then walk away untouched.  Of course, things don’t work out that way.  Evil cannot occur in a vacuum.

It’s not long into the first season when Walter and his partner Jesse’s new business gains the attention of rival drug dealers, and soon Walter takes his first life to protect himself, his new venture, and even his family.  The entire series is about how Walt’s venture into evil continually snowballs out of his control.  By the end of the series, both Walt and Jesse are responsible for taking life, both indirectly and directly.  Though a separation exists between them (who cook the meth) and those who willingly buy and use the meth, it’s impossible for Walt and Jesse to remain untouched by their evil, whether it’s conflicts with experienced, hardened criminals or Jesse’s personal struggle with drug abuse.

Further, though Walt claimed throughout the series that he did it all for his family, his family is destroyed by the end of the series: his wife faces legal and financial hardships; his son hates him; Hank, Walt’s brother-in-law (in the most gut-wrenching episode of the whole series) is killed; and Walt dies, never to see his infant daughter grow up.  The end doesn’t justify the means, because the means leaves its odor on everything it touches.

Not only this, but throughout the series, we witness the internal changes in Walt and Jesse as well.  The series starts with Walt as the harmless family man and schoolteacher and Jesse as the reckless young drug dealer.  As the series continues, we witness the transformations in Walt and Jesse. The writers do this masterfully, not overdoing the changes but showing how it progresses gradually.  This is the advantage of a TV show with several seasons to allow a story to unfold: they can show change naturally, unlike most movies.  Instead of showing Walt abruptly going from family man to Scarface, we witness him shape and morph into “Heisenberg.”  We still see the “old,” nice-guy Walt throughout the series, all the way up to his death, but we also recognize how the “new,” bad Walt — Heisenberg — has become who he truly is.

Breaking-Bad-Wallpaper

This is how it is with evil.  Few good people dabble in evil and suddenly turn into a monster.  But as we allow more evil into our lives, evil comes more easily to us.  A person will feel a lot more scruples about stealing something the first time, but with repetition comes a deadening of our innate sense of right and wrong.  Moreover, evil also progresses from something we do to something we are.  Just as Walt developed his Heisenberg personality over time, a person’s actions come to define them.

Finally, in the last episode, Walt admits, “I did it for me.  I liked it.  I was good at it… I was alive.”  But by the time he finally admits it, it’s no surprise to the viewers.  We’ve witnessed the change.  We’ve recognized that Walt’s pride, ego, and greed had long kept him involved in his illegal venture even when he had opportunities to walk away.

Conversely, by the end of the series, Jesse is no longer a reckless, conscienceless youth, but a weary and scarred (both physically and mentally) man, a sympathetic character, who, despite efforts, can’t escape his connection to Walt and the meth business.  As Jesse and Walt change, eventually Jesse becomes the voice of reason, not Walt.  Jesse’s mental deterioration grows with each season.  Near the end of the series, we witness his mental breakdown when he tosses stacks of money out of his car window as he drives.  The fact that Jesse in the last episodes is literally a chained slave to the meth business can be taken as symbolic.  It’s easy to conclude that once he escapes at the end of the final episode, Jesse will stay as far away from such evil as possible.  But perhaps he will never mentally recover.

According to the Christian worldview, all of us are slaves in chains to sin and have the potential for doing great evil.  We can all become Heisenberg.  Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Later, in Romans 6:16, Paul tells us that we have only two choices: We can be slaves to sin, which leads to death, or we can follow God and be righteous.  Either way, we are following someone — either Satan or God.  There’s no third option.

Jesus, the Son of God, said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).  Here, Jesus is being clear that true freedom can only be attained through him by accepting the gift of his sacrifice on the cross.  Thus, we must align our will with God through Christ: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

breakingBad_beer