C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
What a profound statement. The Word of God gives light to everything the Christian sees. Consider how this is true of the stories that fill our imaginations. How do we take them into our hearts? Through eyes that see and ears that hear, right?
With Lewis’s sentiment in mind let’s consider a story and how the truth of God’s Word illuminates the words of man, in this case the brothers Grimm. The story goes like this:
There was once an old woman, but thou hast surely seen an old woman go a-begging before now? This woman begged likewise, and when she got anything she said, “May God reward you.” The beggar-woman came to a door, and there by the fire a friendly rogue of a boy was standing warming himself. The boy said kindly to the poor old woman as she was standing shivering thus by the door, “Come, old mother, and warm yourself.”
She came in, but stood too near the fire, so that her old rags began to burn, and she was not aware of it. The boy stood and saw that, but he ought to have put the flames out. Is it not true that he ought to have put them out? And if he had not any water, then should he have wept all the water in his body out of his eyes, and that would have supplied two pretty streams with which to extinguish them.
Finding Truth in the Story is quite simple when we look at the old beggar woman’s blessing, “May God reward you.” She spoke these words to those who gave her something when she asked. These four words call to mind what our Lord said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). She received something, but she gave as well. She blessed those who showed her love. But of course, this is not where our focus is finally drawn. This paragraph-long story is centered on the poor behavior of the “friendly rogue of a boy” who at first appears to be concerned with serving his neighbor, but is ultimately shown to be not at all interested in her welfare.
“She came in, but stood too near the fire, so that her old rags began to burn, and she was not aware of it. The boy stood and saw that, but he ought to have put the flames out. Is it not true that he ought to have put them out?”
Yes! It is true that he ought to have put them out. Absolutely. How often do we see someone in need and yet don’t help them? Is it not true that we ought to put out the “flames” that are consuming our neighbor when we see them? Indeed! Loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) is not done in word and talk only, but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). It’s easy for anyone, friendly rogue or otherwise, to say “Come… warm yourself,” but the Christian is called to more than empty words. We deceive ourselves if we think our faith is expressed in hollow gestures. Christ is the Word of God incarnate, likewise the words of the Christian are realized in deed and truth for the good of our neighbor.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
The story’s conclusion is hyperbolic, showing just how far a person should be willing to go in service to his neighbor. The boy “should have wept all the water in his body out of his eyes…” Is it not true that this is precisely the love we should have for others? We don’t, but we should. Is it not true, however, that this is precisely the love Jesus has for us? If crying was what He needed to do to save us from the flames, He would have cried and cried and cried some more. As it is, crying isn’t how He came upon water to save us. Apart from all exaggeration, dying was what was necessary to show God’s love for us. Dying on the cross where He was pierced for our transgressions, where two streams (blood and water – Communion and Baptism) flowed (John 19:34), extinguishing the fires of hell that we would live.
When the light of Christianity shines on the stories of man it’s easy to see the truth of Scripture in the tales we consume. If you enjoy Finding Truth in the Story as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that this is one of the many Grimm’s tales I’ve explored as part of an ongoing project on my website, www.moragunfighter.com.
May you always see the truth in Christianity and by it see truth in everything else.
He married his high school sweetheart, and even though he doesn't have super powers, with each passing day, he grows more and more convinced that she does. They have two amazing children who keep Tyrel grounded in the joys of childishness, but insist that he never wear his underwear on top of his pants.
Tyrel is a parish pastor and the author of The Gift and the Defender and Finding the Truth in Story: Grimm’s Fairy Tales.