In 1993 Steven Spielberg came out with one of his most powerful films, Schindler’s List. It’s the true story of a German businessman, Oskar Schindler, who came to Poland during the Nazi occupation there to take advantage of the situation and make money.
He made friends with some of the German officials and used Jewish workers as free labor in his factory. Since he didn’t have to pay them he was able to rake in quite a profit.
But, little by little, his eyes began to open to the real horrors of the Nazi regime. And in this he has a change of heart; he starts to use his factory and his connections with the officials to save these Jewish workers from the Holocaust. Oskar used the money he had made during the early part of the war to “buy” more and more Jewish workers just so he could save their lives. By the end of the war he was completely broke, but he had saved hundreds of Jews from death.
In one of the last scenes of the film, after the Nazis have surrendered, we see Oskar surrounded by the workers whom he saved, and they are thanking him. They present him with a ring as an expression of their bond with him and also as a sign of their gratitude for what he did for them.
At this point Schindler breaks down, and through his tears he looks around at the people he saved and tells them that he could have done more. He could have sold more of his possessions to rescue even more people. It’s a very beautiful scene as the Jews people surrounding him say, “You did so much.”
The film is meant to show in some way the horrors of the Holocaust and all of the terrible things these people had to go through, but it is also the story of the conversion of one man—how is vision of himself, and his sense of the purpose of his life changed radically. As the story unfolds He begins to make connections in ways that he never did before. His vision of himself and those around him—his sense of purpose begins to change. He sees those working in his factory differently. He begins to care about them and their circumstances—the horror and injustice they have to face. He goes from making everything about making money to using whatever resources he has to rescue those workers he has come to love.
In the story that Jesus tells today, he’s encouraging all of us to start to make some connections. To “not get lost in yourself”. We do that. We put various aspects of our life in “compartments” and fail to see the connections. The rich man is not a bad person, but he was lost in himself and missed what was going on around him. And by the time that he put it all together—especially regarding the purpose of his life—it was too late.
The character in Speilberg’s film moved away from trying to answer the question: “What am I getting out of this?” Or “What’s in it for me?” To “What is being asked of me?”
We are asked to do the same.