Saturday, May 08, 2010

Iron Man 2

"Do not be wise in your own estimation." Rom. 12:16b

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a superhero and he knows it. Iron Man 2 shows us another step in Stark's journey through his second chance at life - after his close call with death at the beginning of the first film.

Here in this sequel, Tony is fully aware of his technological tools, superior intelligence, quick wit, financial excess, and global popularity and power. Unfortunately, this superhero needs another superhero's Uncle Ben (who tells Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility"). But without an Uncle Ben, Tony Stark continues on a flawed journey towards self-destruction.

This is definitely not your typical summer superhero story. Iron Man, it seems, it not rust resistant.

In this movie, our hero is launching his Stark Expo to show off the latest gadgets and bask in the attention and glory given to him by adoring fans. Meanwhile, he grows uncooperative with the United States government - refusing to share his resources out of distrust and outright haughtiness.

Not only is this standoff a fissure in collaborating with public officials and other companies, but it creeps into his personal life as well as he neglects his friends and colleagues in favor of faceless crowds and sleek racecars. These allies, including his business partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and old friend Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), stand by his side regardless of the self-destruction that ensues - but still Stark forgets to notice.

These acts of vanity fuel those who would and could destroy him and the peace he has fought so hard to secure.

In his advice to the Christian community at Rome, the powerhouse of the Empire in the first century, St. Paul instructs the men and women there to be careful of the power they wield in their churches and in their relationships with others, saying "Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation." (Rom. 12:16) What Paul is saying is that pride and power can go to our heads quickly - and a good Christian should know when to say when.

When God gifts us with success in our work or our lives, when he graces us with talents and blessings, and when he opens the doors to opportunity, we should be thankful for all that. Self worth is good and reminds us of the goodness of the God who has given us so much. But in excess, dwelling on our strengths and powers can be troublesome.

Iron Man is a gift to the world - and the ingenuity of Tony Stark and his family is not something to be buried in the sand or, to quote Scripture, placed under a buschel basket. Instead that light should be placed where all have access to it - and not to worship and adore it (for only the giver of the gift should receive that glory, not us).

Instead of an Uncle Ben guiding Iron Man along his path, Tony Stark had to learn the lessons of responsibility and generosity of gifts the hard way. Being wise in his own estimation did no service to Iron Man - and it does no good to us.

Let us pray that we thank God, not ourselves, for the gifts and strengths given to us. And let us use those gifts to make the world, not our little corner of it, a better place than when we first found it.

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