Movies as Parables

June 9, 2008

Sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older, and deeper in debt!
St. Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go–
I owe my soul to the company store!

I may be the first person ever to use Joe Versus the Volcano to teach a spiritual principle to the church. Or maybe not.

Recently our congregation held a “family meeting” on a Saturday morning to discuss a laundry list of topics about how the church is doing and what each of us can do to help us improve. My part in that presentation was to talk about the financial health of the church. Since the church is comprised of all the individual members combined together, a discussion of our financial health necessarily involved a discussion of the financial health of our members.

We live in a nation that is addicted to debt. And our members are representative of that community. We are a congregation of a couple hundred members, still renting facilities for Sunday and midweek services. And we are not close to being able to buy or build a facility of our own — in large part because of our personal indebtedness. I just can’t see borrowing $30,000 per household to buy a building. Many of our members already have more debt than is healthy. As the Proverb says,

Pro 22:7 The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is servant to the lender

Which brings me to the introduction to Joe Versus the Volcano, and the “16 Tons” song. Like the singer, many Americans are over their heads in debt. Like Joe (Tom Hanks), they work day in and day out without hope of escaping from the prison they have built for themselves. They feel like victims and they feel helpless.

In truth, they are neither. It is within each family’s power to make a decision to change their lifestyles so they can get out of debt.

Our congregation is working to encourage and to enable our members to break the addiction to debt. Until our members are free from their servitude to their multiple lenders, that will be a weight that pulls down the church from its full potential. It is a spiritual problem and it must be addressed.  (We are looking into using Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program to help our members get out of debt.)

Sure, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and he can provide us whatever we need whenever he pleases. But if we are not being good managers of what he has already given us, why would he give us more?

The movie clip was a light-hearted way of getting across a point: There is no joy in being enslaved by debt. Even the smallest joys that spring up (like the little white flower in the movie) get crushed by the relentlessness of the debt. While the congregation laughed at the song and the comic visual image of the movie, they got the point. A lot of them could relate to Joe.

Using movie clips like that can be an effective way of drawing people into the message and helping them to connect. To do so legally, a church has to buy a license. Prices are quite reasonable. Our congregation has purchased such a license, and we intend to make good use of it over the next year. If your church is using videos such as this, or plans to do so, please take the time to get legal first!


  1. We did the Dave thing at the congregation and a lot of people were blessed.

  2. Well, it seems that the MPAA must have asked YouTube to take down that video. If you want you can buy the DVD from Fry’s for about $6. IMO the first three minutes are worth the price!

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