Misery and Malevolence

Mar 24, 2023 | Articles, by Guest Writers, Marrow Ministries Free Content

I hate it when film makers take a perfectly excellent book and ruin it by attempting to make a movie out of it. No doubt, each one of us can probably think of a litany of our favorite books that the silver screen has forever tarnished. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is one such book that should be on everyone’s list. I read the book in high school but cared very little for reading then and absorbed none of it. Prior to and for many years after this failed attempt at expanding my education, my grasp of Frankenstein was tenuous at best. In fact, you could say that I had no functional grasp of the book at all. As it turns out, Frankenstein is the scientist; the monster never gets a name—unless you count “wretch, daemon, or fiend” as possible names.

I recently re-read the book and was astonished by what I read. It is nothing like what I had expected—based on the various pop culture depictions I’ve seen of Frankenstein’s monster. I want to urge everyone to run (Don’t walk!) to their nearest bookseller, buy the book, and read it. So, I’m going to try not to spoil it for you.

The word responsibility summarizes one theme that runs through the book. There are multiple deaths and murders that occur throughout the book, and there is a whole lot of shirking responsibility that comes with them. After animating the monster, Frankenstein spends most of his time convincing himself why he shouldn’t tell anyone else about it—despite the trail of bodies that lies in its wake. He even silently watches a young girl be wrongly executed for the murder of a small boy, despite his knowledge of her complete innocence.

Even the monster gets in on the excuse-making. On various occasions, the monster tells Frankenstein that it is Frankenstein’s fault that he committed these egregious acts. For instance, he tells him, “I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” On another occasion, he says, “I am malicious because I am miserable.”

Frankenstein and his wretch use every chance they get to convince themselves, each other, and the audience that they are, in fact, not to blame for their own actions. They both have worldly sorrow over the things they have done, but neither makes any meaningful effort to own their wrongdoing or change course, which brings us to the question we need to ask ourselves. Are we willing to accept responsibility for our actions?

I spend many hours every single week in my office counseling others. Thankfully, many of those I counsel are eager to change and grow holiness, so they make genuine efforts to see their sins, take responsibility for them, hate them, and put them to death. However, I often talk with people who cannot or will not make any effort to see their sins (much less take actual responsibility for them). Excuse after excuse leaks out of their mouths—one reason after another—as to why what they did isn’t as bad as it seems, why there was no other option, or why it was someone else’s fault.

There is always some excuse lurking out there, something on which you can pin the blame for your bad behavior. Click To Tweet

This is, of course, nothing new and not just because it was something Marry Shelly understood back in the 19th Century. Take a trip with me all the way back to the beginning. In Genesis 3, after the duplicitous serpent had duped Adam and Eve, God enters the scene and asks them to give an account of themselves. He asks Adam, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11). Adam says that the woman whom God had given to him—she is the one who gave the fruit to him and he ate. God then turns to Eve and asks her about it. She responds, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

After their attempt to hide from God, they make excuses. Adam blames God and the woman for his sin. Eve blames the serpent for hers. Frankenstein blames his father, his professors, and the outlandishness of the truth for his actions and subsequent silence after the wheels start to come off the train. The monster blames humans, their fear and mistreatment of him, and (most of all) Frankenstein and his rejection. Now, there is an element of truth in all these things: Eve really did give the fruit to Adam. The serpent really did deceive Eve. Frankenstein really would have had an enormously difficult time convincing anyone that his story was true. Everyone who saw him treated the monster very poorly—starting with Frankenstein himself.

And yet, does that excuse any of them for their horrid actions? And what about you? I do not doubt that you have had difficulties in your life. But does that justify or excuse sinful thoughts, words, or actions on your part? The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that even though the outer man wastes away, the inner man is renewed daily. One of the takeaways from this thought is that we need to take responsibility for ourselves. There is always some excuse lurking out there, something on which you can pin the blame for your bad behavior. But if we are going to make real progress in the Christian life and experience significant sanctification, we must stop making excuses, shifting the blame, or justifying our sinful behavior. Take responsibility. And don’t merely name the sin you committed, but accept the consequences that come with the harm it causes.

King David’s rape of Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah, will serve as a fitting conclusion to these thoughts. After David rapes and impregnates Bathsheba, what does he do? He tries to duck the consequences by attempting to deceive Uriah into thinking the baby is his own. Failing at that, he takes things to eleven and has Uriah murdered. From there, he remains silent for some time before Nathan, the prophet, confronts him. Here’s what David says in Psalm 32 following that encounter. He says the blessed man is the one whose iniquity is covered, against whom the Lord doesn’t count his sin. It’s not the one who covers his sin, but whose sin is covered. On this basis, he can say in Psalm 32:5 that it was a great relief to confess his sin and so mercy from the Lord.

So, who is covering your sin? You? Or the Lord? Are you content to cover it with the fig leaves of excuses, justifications, and blame-shifting? Or with the blood of the spotless lamb of God shed for sinners like you?

Find Content by Category

Tweet What You Like

Find Content by Month

Top Tags

related resources