The Hunger Games was a popular movie awhile back. I saw it in the theater shortly after it was released. Just last night I finished reading the book.
As someone who loves Jesus and who also loves literature, I find it particularly rewarding and inspiring when these two passions coincide in my life. When I watch a story unfold in a movie, or when the words on a page bring a tale to life, I find myself searching for the deeper meaning of the message. I look for Jesus in the story; I look for how the story may reflect Biblical truths and values. I seek an application of the message to my life.
I have a friend who says he always looks for the Christ figure when he watches a movie. And more often than not, there is one. Usually there is someone who makes a costly sacrifice, who embodies goodness and speaks truth, someone who is the “good guy” in the midst of evil, a person who is willing to lay down their life for something or somebody they hold dear.
The Hunger Games definitely includes a Christ figure (maybe even two). As the story progresses Katniss (and Peeta) demonstrate self-giving love, compassion and a costly desire to defy the demons of darkness.
The story also raises probing questions concerning the basic nature of human beings. The Gamemakers devise an elaborate and vicious contest that pits the players against various circumstances and situations (fire, highly poisonous bees called tracker jackers, hunger, thirst, and torrential rainstorms). Contestants must at the same time plot against each other in a test of survival that requires not only physical strength, but cunning and strategy. The Gamemakers spawn horrible “muttations” — terrifying no-natural born animals — that attack to mutilate and devour their victims. And as if these challenges aren’t enough, the Gamemakers have an audience to please so they can change the rules of the games to suit their purposes.
For me, The Hunger Games graphically portrays the masterful deception of Satan and his allies, who prowl around seeking to draw people (you and me included) into their devilish game plan. The Enemy will often try to defeat us through circumstances in our lives – we see this time and again. But he likes nothing better than to pit people against one another – how many times have you heard someone proclaim that it’s a “dog eat dog world”! We are tricked into thinking that life is all a competition — the sooner we can rise above, or even eliminate, the other guy the better it will be for us. We easily become infected with lies of lust, suspicion, ambition, anger and selfishness. Tragically the goal of life mutates from the original purpose of “blessed to be a blessing” to “kill or be killed”. Such is the sad state of a fallen world without a Savior.
That an author would choose a title like The Hunger Games is also not an accident. It raises the question: What are the characters hungering for? And by extension, what am I hungering for?
In the story, each game contestant is hungering to accomplish the goal – to be the lone survivor. Each heart yearns for victory. Each one wants to win. Each player deeply desires to leave the insanity of the game — at some level all of them know they are inextricably tangled in a mayhem of madness — they want out. They want to be saved, freed, and finally allowed to go home in peace.
As a Christian living in a fallen world, it’s the same for me … I get tired of struggling with Satan’s snares. I am grieved by the pain and sorrow, the pride and idolatry I see within and without. I desire to have victory. I long for complete freedom from the dark side. I want to be saved finally and completely. While I do find pleasure and purpose, fulfillment, joy and love on this earth, ultimately, I want to go home. I want to be where Jesus is – whether it’s first of all in His presence in heaven when I die, or later on earth with Him when He returns. What I hunger for is the one thing that alone will satisfy the human heart: the One who is light and goodness – the One who made us and loves us like no other.
The Hunger Games is a thought-provoking read. Good stories make us think; they also make us want more. As when a delicious dinner is set before me, my appetite is whetted by the first course. There are two more books to follow. I look forward to reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay, the sequels in the trilogy.
I wonder what message for life I’ll find there.