THE BIBLICAL LESSON FROM BREAKING BAD’S WALTER WHITE
Breaking bad centres on the transformation of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer, from a sweet loving husband to a remorseless, conscienceless, power drunk and blood-thirsty monster.
Although the series itself is entirely fictional, there is a parallel between Walter White’s story arc and that of the Israel’s first king, Saul.
We are introduced to Saul, the son of Kish, in 1 Samuel 9 when he is just a young man searching for his father’s lost donkey. He is described as being taller than everybody else. He seems to be a daddy’s boy as his servant predicted that if they did not return home, his father would cease caring for the donkeys and worry about them, this is subsequently the case in 1 Samuel 10 where Saul’s father is revealed to have found the donkeys and wonders, “what shall I do about my son?”. Saul is wise and discrete as he does not reveal the fact that Samuel has just anointed him king to his family. Saul is shy as he hides among the equipment (1 Samuel 10:22). I can almost picture the Israelites whipping out their I-phones and flooding social media with pictures of this shy, sweet, tall and handsome young man they just crowned king with comments of “awwww…he is soooo cute…*insert all sorts of emojis here*”.
Saul is brave as he leads Israel to their first war. Saul is kind and shows mercy on those who oppose him (1 Sam 10:27, 11:12&13). What more could you want from a king?
Then it begins to slowly go downhill after Saul, the King, oversteps the bounds of his royal office, assumes the role of priest and offers the sacrifice meant for Samuel (1 Sam 13), then he swears a careless oath in the thick of battle which condemns his men to fight hungry and he was willing to kill Jonathan his son for breaking the oath (1 Samuel 14) if his people did not intervene. Then he started gathering all the strong and valiant men among the people for himself (1 Samuel 14:52)
His little acts of disobedience and egomania culminate in 1 Samuel 15 where he contravenes God’s instruction to obliterate the Amalekites and spares the best of the spoils and Agag their king. At this point, he is informed by Samuel that the kingdom is taken away from him. Saul’s response to this is where we find out his true motivations from the very first day.
“Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” (1 Sam 15:30)
His motivations, simply put, were…Saul! Forget the fact God had rejected him, he was fine as long as the people still honoured him.
Saul was not shy when he hid behind the equipment, he was self-centred. His excuse for offering the sacrifice was that the people were beginning to scatter from him (1 Sam 13:11), the emphasis was not on the people or their scattering, the emphasis was on him! This is the same reason he was ready to kill his son Jonathan, he did not want to appear weak in the presence of his people. So imagine how threatened he felt when women started singing “Saul has slain his thousands but David his ten thousands”. (1 Sam 18:7)
From then on, the once sweet and cultured Saul becomes a pursuer of David the next anointed king. He tries to murder him repeatedly. He even executes all the priests of God for offering David food and sustenance when he was on the run (1 Sam 22). Again it is a transformation from cute and sweet to bloodthirsty with self at the centre of it all, much like Walter White’s final conversation with his estranged wife Skyler where he admits the driving force behind all the atrocious things he did in the course of the series,
“Everything I did, I did it for me…I liked it…I was good at it…and…I felt alive”.
Now what is the Biblical lesson here?
None of us know who we truly are or what we are capable of. We look at characters like Walter White or historical figures and judge them harshly for their vices and brutality, sometimes rightly so, but can we say with all conviction that if given the same authority and power Saul was given, or the sphere of influence that Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar had, we would still be sane and rational? Have the bounds of our goodness and decency really been tested and pushed to the limits by the desperation of deep wants or ecstasy of boundless resources? Could we have lived in the harsh, ruthless, “kill or be killed” times of the ancients and maintained our child-like purity, innocence and 21st Century wokeness?
As scripture says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
At this point, some might be thinking, “surely, I know myself, I would not have done that in their position”, well,
“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool…” (Proverbs 28:26)
Truth is, we honestly cannot say…and maybe the reason we are quick to judge and condemn others is because we do not see the depths of the potential of evil latent within us. We go around flicking the specks from people’s eyes when we have massive logs sticking out of ours.
One of the beauties of the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible is that it is where everything reaches its climax. The glory of Christ is revealed as never before, the judgment of God on mankind is portrayed as never before, even evil reaches its climax in the person of the Anti-Christ, the man of sin.
Now it is easy for Christians to read Biblical verses on the Anti-Christ’s blasphemies, rebellion and sins with apathy…but the same evil in the Anti-Christ is the very same evil in our fleshly, Adamic nature. The Anti-Christ is simply the full-blown maturity of the evil in us all, it is this evil nature that Jesus Christ by His blood delivered us from, it is from this evil nature that as many as believe on Jesus Christ are “born again” from.
In conclusion, although Walter White might be fictional, his story is not. His story is one of humanity in its fallen state, a reminder that we, as human beings, cannot be too sure we know ourselves or are acquainted with the evils that are latent within us and that it is only in looking at the Anti-Christ that we, as Christians, can catch a glimpse of the evil in the Adamic nature that Jesus Christ, the second Adam, delivered us from.