The Lorax: Greed and the Gospel

Posted: October 2, 2012 by Josh Kwasny in Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

[Plot Spoiler]

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax tells the tale of a young entrepreneur (the Once-ler) who is confronted by the Lorax (the guardian of the land) after he cuts down a tree to make his new invention – a “Thneed”. Although the Lorax convinces the Once-ler to promise not to cut down any more trees, the Once-ler breaks his oath when the Thneed becomes a consumer goldmine.

Overcome by greed, The Once-ler continues to decimate the land in order to produce his Thneeds – “which everyone needs.” He even begins to mock the Lorax who has warned him that he will be stopped. While bragging about his success, the Once-ler asks the Lorax, “When are you going to use your powers to stop me?” The Lorax simply motions to the window as the last tree falls to the ground…”that may stop you,” he replies. With his resources drained, the ruined Once-ler sees the error of his ways and becomes a recluse in the treeless land. Meanwhile the now air-deprived village of Thneed-ville is taken over by another greedy man – Aloysius O’Hare – who exploits the people by selling them bottled oxygen for profit. As the years pass, people begin to forget about trees and prefer a city made of plastic.

Although Thneed-ville has become a land of manufactured trees, a young boy named Ted Wiggins goes in search of real one (in order to impress a girl, of course). He meets the Once-ler who provides him with the last tree seed – the last chance for redemption of his greed-induced destruction. Ted explains that people don’t care about trees anymore, but the Once-ler encourages him to plant the seed in the center of the city “to make them care.”

As with all happy endings – Ted succeeds, the town is rid of the evil Mr. O’Hare, and Thneed-ville has trees once more. (We can assume Ted gets the girl too…it’s only right.)

Recently I rented the Lorax for a “family movie night.” After we finished the film, I asked my kids what they thought the point of the story was. One of my children simply said, “We shouldn’t cut down trees.” Unfortunately, this is probably the all too common oversimplification of this film. While one could simply view this story as promoting environmentalism and condemning capitalism, I want to point out a couple of other interesting themes that The Lorax (maybe even unwittingly) propounds.

Depravity: The Once-ler’s downward spiral from the young wide-eyed visionary to the greedy tree-slashing tyrant is remarkable. This kind of evolution should not surprise us, however. Despite popular opinion, the Once-ler didn’t start out as a “good man” only to become an “evil capitalist.” Scripture teaches that people sin because of human sinful nature.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

The theme song for depravity is included in this film as well. The Once-ler sings, “How bad can I be?…I’m just doing what comes naturally!” How true and tragic this is. We are not basically good people who mess up once and a while. Without Jesus Christ, we are slaves to sin who prefer to do evil. We are “just doing what comes naturally” after all.

The Gospel: The Lorax includes a wonderful picture of the gospel in the midst of the darkness of depravity. As the Lorax departs from the land after the last tree falls, he leaves a monument with the word “UNLESS” engraved upon it. The Once-ler encourages Ted to plant the last tree seed with these words, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

While I am not suggesting that the parallel is intentional, the imagery in this part of The Lorax is beautiful. The truth of gospel of Jesus Christ is that God did care “a whole awful lot!” In Christ, we have hope (surety) that things will be better. Like that last tree, Jesus Christ is the seed that was planted – lifted up on the cross for all to see and believe! Because of Christ we no longer have to do “what comes naturally!”

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV)

Advertisements
Comments
  1. amelia says:

    I agree! I thought it was interesting how, at the end of the movie, the Lorax came down in a beam of light and said “You did well” to the Once-ler. Similar to God saying upon our arrival (we can only hope and pray) “Well down, my good and faithful servant.”

    There are so many scriptural and gospel similarities in this movie, I was blown away! Thanks for posting this blog, I am glad someone else caught the comparisons too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s