Fight Club and the gospel of prosperity

“When you make the kind of movies I make, you get weird letters from people.”
— David Fincher

Fight Club has long been one of my favorite movies. It combined great acting, stylistic filmmaking, and a stellar script. It took years for me to realize how close it comes to the Christian message — if you leave God out of the picture and leave men looking elsewhere for their salvation. On the one hand, it’s about how we are clawing, longing, desperate for something more than what this world has to offer. On the other, it’s about how let down we are to not have attained the success we believe we deserve. Tyler Durden says, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” Could you have put it better?

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Christians believe — and I think correctly, otherwise I couldn’t call myself a Christian — that we have the answers to both of these problems. For the former, we find an apt summary from CS Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” (Sunday School gives us the correct answer as well: Jesus.) To the latter, we know — at least philosophically — that the greatest purpose we can find in life is not to exalt ourselves as stars but to humble ourselves as servants. Here again, Christ is the answer and example: let us stoop over and wash each other’s feet. As His rock Peter instructs us, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another!”

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But even if we understand that, we have a temptation to believe a false gospel: that faith in Christ entitles us to financial security, safety & longevity, and relational success. But this just isn’t true. We may be seeing the story from our own points of view, but we must not forget we are minor players in a much greater production.

I was oblivious to just how much I think this way until last Sunday, when Pastor Steve preached on Jacob and Esau and pointed out how all the nations of Israel were born into heartache and despair. Genesis 29:31-32 says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, ‘Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.'” What’s important to note here is that Leah never gets the love she sought from Isaac. Even when it appears our prayers are being answered, when it seems our desires are about to be fulfilled, even when we can clearly see God moving, we cannot know what purposes and plots the Author of Life has in mind.

This should not be a discouraging notion. Rather, it should serve to remind us that God is still in control, that He still plans to prosper us, and like Leah we will not be forgotten. Knowing that, how much more easily can we abandon our dreams of fame and joyously throw ourselves into working for His?

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