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This week an interesting story was brought to my attention. Entitled, The Real, Forgotten Meaning Of ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, an article (with accompanying video) at the Business Insider website says some economists believe that L. Frank Baum’s book was actually an “economic fairytale” from the age of the gold standard.
The Scarecrow, they say, represented Western farmers at the turn-of-the-century, whose debts skyrocketed with the deflation of the American dollar. Many people at that time believed eliminating the gold standard for currency would solve our economic woes, while others insisted we should keep it in place. Munchkins represent this second group, advising Dorothy to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” which stood for the use of gold to determine the value of the U.S. dollar. Tin Man was representative of unemployed Americans. The Cowardly Lion was supposed to be William Jennings Bryan, a leader of the Free Silver Movement, which promoted the idea of adding silver to the gold standard. The name of the land was taken from the abbreviation for ounce, the unit by which gold is measured. The Emerald City was our nation’s capital, where everyone saw the world through green-tinted eye-glasses (greed). And in the end, it was Dorothy’s silver shoes (The movie changed them to ruby slippers.) that held the key to her return to a happy home in Kansas.
I seriously doubt this interpretation, for several reasons:
- First, I know from Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” research that Baum verbally told the Oz stories to the youngsters in his family. When asked the name of his fabled land, he took it from the label on a file drawer, “O-Z,” and coined the moniker “Oz.” Nowhere in his mind was the idea that this name would trigger thoughts of the unit of measure for gold.
- Next, this interpretation seems unlikely, because I don’t believe Mr. Baum had such a politically-motivated reason for telling and then publishing these stories for children. While “Dr. Seuss” books are highly political, that’s because he was first a political cartoonist. He didn’t particularly like children, but knew that, if their parents read his stories aloud, both the adults and youngsters would be exposed to his ideas.
- Finally, the story itself doesn’t fit this interpretation. If the Scarecrow represented Western farmers, why would he be seeking to acquire a brain? Why would an unemployed factory worker (Tin Man) think he was lacking a heart? And why would William Jennings Bryan—who appears to have been quite vocal in his opinions about the gold/silver debate—be considered cowardly?
It annoys me when people try to attach some hidden meaning to the writings of others. Unless the author states his/her underlying thoughts or motivation, why should we assume there’s something beyond the obvious intended?
I hope you’ll pardon this lengthy introduction to my real topic, which has nothing to do with American economics. Reviewing The Wizard in consideration of the aforementioned article got me to thinking about how the story reflects our Christian life.
In The Wizard of Oz, the would-be magician gave Dorothy’s traveling companions shoddy “gifts” representing rewards they sought for vanquishing the Wicked Witch of the West. Even a child can see that a diploma doesn’t mean you have brains; a heart-shaped pincushion is no substitute for genuine love, and a medal of honor does not mean you are truly brave. The highlight of the story is when good witch Glinda informed the seekers that they possessed these things within themselves all along.
How many of us, like L. Frank Baum’s Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, are looking for something we already have in Christ?
- We seek enlightenment from self-help books, popular television hosts and other so-called “experts.” Yet 1 Corinthians 2:16 says, “we have the mind of Christ.” James 1:5 urges those lacking wisdom to ask of God, “who gives generously to all without finding fault” (NIV).
- We feel hollow and empty and long for love. Scripture teaches that God is love. The self-sacrificial acts of Christ prove the Lord’s regard for us. His brand of love in our hearts is proof of His presence in our lives. (See 1 John 4:7-10 & Galatians 5:22-23.)
- Fearful in this tumultuous world, we desire courage. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). Just as He promised Joshua, God’s word and His presence are what endow us with the courage and success we long for (Joshua 1:8-9).
2 Peter 1:2-4 informs us that God in Christ has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness,” through the divine nature that was imparted to us who believe in Him. Whatever blessings we need to live holy and productive lives are available to the adopted sons and daughters of God—who made us “accepted in the Beloved,” without us having to perform some extraordinary act to earn these rewards (Ephesians 1:3-6).
So don’t look to the “wizards” of this age to give you what you want and need. And don’t think you can manufacture your own wisdom, love and courage. God makes every good thing available to those who are His through faith in Christ, who rely on His Holy Spirit. Worldly and Satanic substitutes will never be effective or satisfy the longings of your heart. What the Lord supplies is all you need.
Oh, and for all you Dorothy’s longing for home: There’s a place where the roads really are paved with gold—not cheap yellow bricks (Revelation 21:10-21). And it can’t be reached by clicking together any silver or ruby slippers. Our heavenly home was prepared by the Lord Himself, and we arrive by trusting Him alone to get us there (John 14:1-6)!
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