This Christmas, the movie Seven Pounds was advertised as a feel-good, inspirational film. Rarely has an advertising campaign been so wrong. The odd thing is that the movie actually does come close to being inspirational—but in the end, it completely misses the mark.
(Just so you know, I’m going to reveal some important details of the plot, so listen at your own risk!)
In Seven Pounds, Will Smith plays a mysterious man who calls himself Ben. He spends all his time looking for strangers who need help—people who are dealing with illnesses, financial troubles, or abusive relationships. Ben finds their names and information through what is apparently his job as an IRS agent. He tracks them down, and starts getting involved in their lives, trying to help them in any way he can.
Gradually, we find out that Ben is trying to atone for his past. One night, in a moment of distraction, he caused a car accident that took the lives of seven people, including his own fiancée. So Ben decides to try to help seven more people get a chance to start afresh.
So far, not a bad idea for a movie. The story looks like it could provide some interesting twists on the concepts of guilt, repentance, and atonement.
But what we don’t realize at first is just how far Ben will go to atone. His idea is that because he took seven lives, he must give up his own life in return. Ben thinks he no longer deserves to live, so he literally must destroy himself in order to help save other people’s lives—after he’s made sure that they’re good people who do deserve to live. The entire film is one long setup for Ben’s final act of self-destruction.
As one of my colleagues observed, Seven Pounds could have been a very different kind of film. Ben’s experiences and the new relationships he built during the movie could have had a transforming, even redemptive, effect on his life, if he had allowed them to. But he wouldn’t—because he didn’t think he deserved redemption.
That’s where the movie provides a great opportunity to reflect and discuss a biblical worldview.
Because Ben acknowledged his own failure and realized that he was undeserving, Ben could have been shown as the perfect recipient of grace. For the truth is that, as an undeserving failure, he represents every fallen, sinful human being who’s ever lived—including you and me. Not one of us deserves grace any more than Ben did—that’s what makes it such a gift.
Ben’s real tragedy is that he never came to understand that this gift was available even for him.
But this movie provides a great opportunity to share with your friends the difference a redemptive biblical worldview might have had on Ben’s good intentions. Indeed, a movie in which there is no room for grace does not truly reflect the human opportunity for redemption.
Again, this movie provides such a great opportunity to share with others what redemption in Christ truly looks like. Ben did not know of this redemption and therefore was driven to destroy his own life. But the hope that God holds out to even the most unworthy sinner, is a hope that can redeem every life, including Ben’s.