I watched “Seven Pounds” last night. It was a great movie, but it could lead some people astray in understanding how we achieve redemption. Ben Thomas (Will Smith) feels responsible for the death of seven people in an automobile accident, so he spends the movie saving seven lives. And he does it. He literally saved the lives of seven people. Thus, the audience thereby is lead to feel as though he has “redeemed” himself for texting while driving and killing seven people (including his fiancée). It’s really a beautiful story of a good-hearted man who made a seven-second mistake and does everything and anything to make it right. When the movie was over, I was moved by his sacrifices, moved by his intentions, moved by his desire to “right the wrongs.” He gave his brother part of a lung, a stranger part of his kidney, bone marrow to a child, a house to an abused woman, eyes to a blind man and his heart to a woman who would have otherwise died. (He also gave something to a hockey coach, but I do not know what.) It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching tale about a man’s personal struggle with guilt, with the debt he feels he owes society, and the internal battle regarding his own worth to live.
The movie leaves the viewer believing that sacrifice, selflessness and generosity are all that it takes to absolve our sins. Now, I realize that the movie is NOT talking about salvation (eternal life in Heaven), but often times, people will fail to differentiate the ideas of a personal struggle of a debt we feel towards society from the debt we must pay for our sins.
It almost seems unfair, really, that Ben Thomas could do so much for so many but still possibly not go to Heaven. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our righteous “deeds are like a filthy garment”. Without the life-saving blood of Jesus Christ, God cannot even see the deeds we call righteous. Why? Because without Jesus’ redemption, our deeds are not righteous, our motives are not pure, our hearts are not clean.
Though it seems like a contradiction, God’s way is the fairest way. What if you were in Ben’s situation and didn’t have a house to give to an abused woman – would that mean you do not get to go to Heaven? Our deeds do not save us. Our good works are merely a by-product of the faith, love, and thankfulness we have in Christ Jesus. (See James 2.)
God’s way also frees us from the burden of being as “good” as humanely possible – always nice, always obeying the speed limit, always generous, kind, patient, self-controlled and joyous. It is impossible to be sinless. If that was the requirement, we would constantly feel guilty, burdened, ashamed, disappointed, sad, etc. God never wanted that! He wants us to spend eternity with Him, and therefore makes redemption ridiculously EASY. Believe. Period.
Ben's desire to help only those people who are truly "good" is the perfect example of how we as humans fail. Jesus's redemption is available to any, to all who seek Him.
In Seven Pounds, Ben gives the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – in order to give a woman his heart. Surely, that should free him from his guilt, shame, heartache, etc. The Bible tells us that only when we are free of sin through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, can we be absolved of our guilt, shame, and heartache. Ephesians 1:7 reads “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
I believe Ben Thomas found the self-fulfillment he was seeking by saving seven lives. He could not, however, erase the wrongs that were accidentally commited against the seven families of the people who were killed. Not until we look to Jesus Christ can we achieve true redemption.