The Parable of Willy Wonka by Vicar A.J. Houseman
Read Matthew 22:15-22
In 1971 Gene Wilder starred in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I know they have remade it since then, but the original is better. It's a musical tale about boy named Charlie Bucket. Charlie is a poor boy who lives in this town that the infamous Wonka Chocolate Factory. It has been closed to people for decades and run by this reclusive billionaire. Then one day there’s world wide news that Wonka is going to put 5 golden tickets into his chocolate bars and the five kids that find them get to go to the factory and get a lifetime supply of chocolate.
A golden ticket to a magical chocolate factory, that’s any kids dream! Heck, I’d love go. And Charlie finds one!
Now before the kids go to the factory this guy makes them a deal that if they can bring him an everlasting gobstopper from the factory he will pay them lots of money for it.
So in the factory the kids one by one start disappearing because they get greedy. Eventually the only kid left is Charlie. Charlie returns the everlasting gobstopper and Willy Wonka reveals that guy was one of his employees testing the kids to see if they were worthy and Charlie has been deemed worthy to take over the chocolate factory.
I imagine that when Jesus is telling parables, one of them sounded something like this, “The Kingdom of God is like a magical chocolate factory run by a reclusive billionaire and the only way in is with a golden ticket.”
That seems like something Jesus would day right? This is a parable about greed and about what it takes to be worthy of the Kingdom of God. This week, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus into saying something bad about the empire so that they can kill him. They are trying to get him to say something about not paying taxes, but Jesus says simply, “give to the emperor what is the emperor’s and give to God what is God’s.”
See God is working with a different kid of currency. I imagine that if Willy Wonka just wanted to sell the chocolate factory outright to whomever would pay for it it would be worth a billions of dollars right? I mean, he could have just said whoever is the highest bidder is clearly worthy of owning such a vast fortune.
Instead, he used the Golden Tickets.
See Jesus is our Golden Ticket. The kingdom of God isn’t for sale. It’s not something you can pay for.
This actually is the foundation of the Lutheran denomination. In 1517, when a priest named Martin Luther realized that the church was selling admittance into heaven he stood up against it. On October 31, 1517, Luther posted the 95 thesis on the church door beginning the protestant reformation in Germany because you can’t buy your way into the chocolate factory.
Another translation of this passage says, “render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God’s.” So what is the currency of God?
It’s the thing that Charlie gives. It’s honestly, it's kindness, it's selfless, and not greedy.
Charlie gives back the gobstopper.
We’ve already been given the Golden Ticket, it's up to us from here to do what is good and kind and just. So what are you going to do in the chocolate factory?
Our Reflection video this week is Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective