Ok, so I have a confession to make…I sometimes get obsessed with teen fiction novels. Just to clarify, this did NOT happen with the Twilight series! But I have a younger sister who is an avid reader, and through her recommendation I recently discovered a genuinely good book called “The Hunger Games.”
You have probably heard of this trilogy, as it has been out for a few years now and a movie is in the process of being made. Typically, when something in popular culture makes a splash like this book has, I want to at least be aware of it. What I found was a powerful story of human nature.
The story is told in present tense by a teenage girl named Katniss. She lives in a world ruled by The Capitol, a powerful city where citizens live in excess and luxury. While the Capitol bursts with wealth and frivolous pass-times, the 12 Districts under its control suffer in poverty. At one point in history, the Districts rose up against the Capitol, but the rebellion was crushed and The Hunger Games were established. Each year, all 12 Districts are required to randomly draw the names of a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the Games. These two contestants will join others from each District in a modern-day gladiator arena. The last person standing wins. To make things even more gruesome, the whole event is played up similar to the Olympic Games, and every person from each District is forced by law to watch their representatives fight to the death on TV, as the citizens of the Capitol glory in the entertainment of it all. The purpose is to remind the Districts never again to rebel. When Katniss volunteers in place of her younger sister, she is in for a life-changing journey. Placed in a giant arena filled with traps, weapons, and artificially controlled climates and geography, she must face 23 other teenagers in a battle of wits and violence.
This book is a powerful look into human nature. Other books such as “Lord of the Flies” have delved into this topic before, and what we get is a modern day illustration of human sin. While some may insist on the inner goodness of humankind, this belief is challenged when we are placed in desperate situations. Our true colors show when we must fight to survive, and we may find ourselves committing unthinkable acts. The book does a great job of capturing Katniss’s inner turmoil. On one hand, she is appalled at The Hunger Games and recoils from the prospect of killing, but on the other hand she is a survivor and longs to be reunited with her family. What will she do when forced into such a desperate position?
I also saw some similarities between The Capitol and our own culture. What?! No, we do not support anything as cruel as The Hunger Games…or do we? Technology has allowed us to watch unspeakable violence from our own living rooms. I mean, how many of us guys have popped in the movie “Gladiator” to watch only the bloody arena scenes? I stand guilty. We are comforted knowing they are only actors on a screen, but how long before we are desensitized enough where we can’t tell the difference? When the news shows scenes of horrific violence on TV, all we have to do is turn the channel and suddenly it’s like those events never even happened! Scenes on the news don’t bother us any more because we’ve seen much worse on the silver screen. We live in a culture that glorifies violence, so let us not pretend we are so different from the citizens of The Capitol. Anyone who has been to an action movie recently has likely been entertained by human characters inflicting violence on each other.
I believe we could be on a similar path as those in The Capitol because of our obsession with wealth. Materialism changes the way you view people. Materialism is an obsession with wealth and asks “How can this benefit me?” When we view things this selfishly, how long before we start to view people this way as well? When do those lines start to blur? It all comes down to the heart. A selfish heart is exactly that: a selfish heart. You cannot be selfish with material things and unselfish towards people. The heart does not make that distinction. Look at James 5:1-6.
“Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. Your wealth is ruined: your clothes are moth-eaten; your silver and gold are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You stored up treasure in the last days! Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who reaped your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned–you have murdered–the righteous man; he does not resist you.”
Do you see the downward spiral? It starts with being rich (verses 1-3), then turns to mistreating and using people (verses 4-5), and ends with murder (verse 6). Let verse 5 be a warning to those of us living in a materialistic culture: “You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.” I pray that God might change my heart to reflect His love in a culture that is obsessed with wealth. God help us if we follow this path to its horrifying conclusion. Perhaps then The Hunger Games won’t be so fictional to us.