The Theology of Les Miserables (Part 2)

This is Part 2 (of 3).

Part 1 – The Forgiveness of Jean Valjean
Part 3 – The Shackles of Javert

Movie Poster. Universal Pictures

Movie Poster. Universal Pictures

Spoiler Warning: Like the first post, this post contains several spoilers, but you should read it anyway.

On Saturday, I wrote a post about the movie Les Miserables going into detail about the relationship between Bishop Digne and Jean Valjean, hopefully moving you to think about how God shows us love and forgiveness even when we turn against him. Valjean stole from the Bishop, and while the Bishop had every right to condemn Valjean, he forgave him and fought for him to become an honest man. At first glance, this might seem like a small, insignificant detail in a movie that’s otherwise filled with big cinematic moments, but this is actually the most important action in the entire movie and essentially leads to the salvation of several other characters.

From this point on, Valjean is a completely different man. Receiving the kindness from Digne, Valjean turned his life around, changing his name, becoming the mayor, and running a successful business. In the next scene, we meet Fantine, who had a child with a man who left her, and she’s then forced to raise her child on her own. Her daughter, Cosette, lives with an innkeeper and his wife, and she works to send money to support her daughter. When the rest of the women whom she works with find out about her daughter, they fight until Valjean breaks it up. He then tells his foreman to settle the matter with patience.

The women claim that Fantine must be sleeping around to get all the extra money, and then because she has continued to stave off the advances of the foreman, he angrily retaliates by kicking her out onto the streets. She wanders around in the back alleys until she encounters a group of prostitutes. She sells her hair and her necklace to them before eventually selling her body and becoming the prostitute the other women claimed she was. As she grows ill, she’s eventually found by Valjean who then realizes his mistake of ignorance and vows to find her daughter and take care of her.

valjeanfantine

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Let’s chat about this for a moment. The whole scene goes downhill when the workers all turn on Fantine when they find out she has a child. For the record, she wasn’t a prostitute before she was kicked out of the factory, just a hard worker who was pinching pennies. In their wickedness, her fellow workers turned on her and cast her out. And no one came to her rescue. How’s that fair? Fantine was probably one of the more righteous people in the film, and yet she was still kicked out, forced to live on the streets, before becoming ill and dying. This isn’t news to us, is it? We’re unfortunately reminded several times that evil gets a free ride, and good people die young. It’s not only true in our culture, but it’s covered throughout the Bible.

Psalm 73:3: “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Jeremiah 12:1 “You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”Habakkuk 1:13 “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

So where’s God when suffering happens? When the righteous are suffering and the wicked are reigning? While Les Miserables doesn’t clear up this question, it’s crystal clear in scripture. Where’s God? Right here, watching everything, evaluating everything, continuing to show grace and patience, but eventually his patience will be done, and he will have the last word.

Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

It’s actually incredibly comforting to know that all of your pain, all of your sorrow, and all of your toil, will not go in vain. God sees what you do, knows who you are, and is weaving the world together to fix it’s broken nature. So don’t worry, don’t fear. Even when it seems like the wicked have their way, God is always in control, watching and waiting. God’s not saying that evil will have the final say, but rather, knows He will have final word. But for now, he is inviting you to come to him for He will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

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2 responses to “The Theology of Les Miserables (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: The Theology of Les Miserables (Part 3) | A Crown for Ashes·

  2. Pingback: The Theology of Les Miserables (Part 1) | A Crown for Ashes·

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