Main Point: Justifying Bad Choices
Attention Grabber: Movie - Spider-Man 2, PG-13, Columbia / Tristar, 2004
Peter Parker is troubled with several personal problems while Spider-Man is forced to confront the villainous "Doctor Octopus" (aka, "Doc Oc"). If you like the first Spider-Man movie, you'll really like this one. It is more of the great special effects and fun fight sequences. The movie is a little "darker" than the first, taking a more serious tone at times.
Clip: Spider-Man 2,
Scene 20, “Doc Oc’s Lair”
Scene 20, “Doc Oc’s Lair,” is a good clip to illustrate the battle that goes on in our minds when we struggle with wrong choices. Even when we know what to do to make things right, Satan puts thoughts in our heads to further rationalize our choices and get us to take it a step further. Clarify that suicide, as it seems Doc Oc was contemplating, is just as destructive as the original bad choice, but this scene shows that Doc knew something needed to be done to correct his mistake or prevent more destruction from occurring.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever talked yourself into doing something you knew you shouldn’t have… Okay, I just wanted to make sure you could relate to me before we start! (Option: share a personal story here of justifying a bad choice when you were a kid or a teenager.)
Even if it isn’t something you’d call a “big” sin, most of us are tempted to justify or make excuses for certain choices, even when we know their not the smartest choices. Tonight we’re gonna talk about just that: justifying bad choices.
Who here has seen Spider-Man 2?
Remember the scene where Dr. Octavius – before
he goes from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, demonstrates his radical energy experiment to donors and other people? He loses control of it and the machine starts to blow.
Optional Clip: You can show this scene about a minute into Scene 16, “Otto’s Demonstration,” on the DVD.
- When the demonstration started to go haywire, Dr. Octavius yelled, “Keep calm! It’s only a spike! It’ll soon stabilize!”
- Even after a big sign showed up on the computer screen, “CAUTION: OVERLOAD IN PROGRESS…SYSTEM UNSTABLE”, Otto’s wife, the technician, and Harry tried to get Dr. Octavius to shut the machine down, he persisted, “It will stabilize! It’s under control!”
Well, if you saw the movie, you know that Dr. Octavius’ machine blew up, destroying everything, and killing people, including his wife. It left him with four mind-controlling robotic tentacles. Let’s look at a scene that shows what happens with Doc Oc when things got out of control.
“My Rosie’s dead. My dream is dead. And these monstrous things (the tentacles) should be at the bottom of the river along with me.”
(The arms react to what he says and seem to talk to his mind.)
“Something…in my head. Something talking. (He reaches back to the mechanism at the top of his spine.) The inhibitor chip! Gone.”
(The arms move in close to his face and seem to put thoughts in his head.)
“Rebuild. No. Peter was right. I miscalculated... I couldn’t have miscalculated. It was working, wasn’t it?... Yes... We could rebuild. Enlarge the containment field. Make it bigger and stronger than ever. But we need money... Steal it? No, no, no, I’m not a criminal.
(The arms “talk” to him.)
That’s right. The real crime would be not to finish what we started...”
STOP here before or after he says, “We’ll do it here. The power of the sun in the palm of my hand. Nothing will stand in our way. Nothing!”
You know, it's often that we're in situations like this. Okay, so I'm not talking about having nuclear energy in our hands or having four huge cast-iron tentacles implanted in our back, but we do face situations that are like this: moments of truth. We have an opportunity to do either what's right or what's wrong. And although you'd thinkt that the answer is supposed to be easy, sometimes what's wrong just sounds so good. In fact, we get pretty good at justifying it sometimes. Let's split up into our groups and see if we can figure this whole dilemma out.
Divide into Small Groups:
Go ahead and split up into discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Tell your name and your favorite thing about either of the Spider-Man movies or about Spider-Man himself.
- ASK A FEW: Just before Doc Oc’s accident, were there any warning signs that things were out of control? What signs? (How about a big sign that said, “CAUTION: OVERLOAD IN PROGRESS…SYSTEM UNSTABLE?”)
- ASK A COUPLE: How could he have stopped it early on, before it became out of control?
- ASK A FEW: What are ways that students your age get caught up in stuff that they think they can handle . . . but then it gets out of control?
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Let’s go around and each share a time where we thought we could “handle” a situation . . . but it got out of control. I’ll start. (Leader, share an example in your life.)
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: In the example you just shared . . . when exactly would have been a good time to get out of the situation? (Sometimes, the best “escape” is three choices before the “tough choice”, way before you allowed yourself to be put into that position.)
Leader’s Comments: When the accident happens and Doc Oc felt like it couldn’t be any worse, for a second it sounded like he was going to come to his senses. But then the tentacles started “talking” to him and convincing him that he could still pull it off!
Let’s look at the following passage:
Luke 16:13-15, (Jesus) “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your heart. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”
This passage is talking about how we can’t let something else (other than God) be the “god” of our life-—specifically, money in this passage. But the passage tells us that we either need to listen to God, or listen to something else. We can’t pretend to be committed to God, but continue to “listen” to other influences that contradict his Word. The problem is, often we don’t think that there’s a problem. We think that we’re in control. But we aren’t. The situation becomes out of control.
ASK SOMEONE: According to the passage, how many “masters” can we serve? (one)
ASK SOMEONE: The passage talks about the Pharisees—the religious snobs that loved money. What does the passage say they did in the eyes of men? (They justified themselves.)
ASK ONE OR TWO: What does it mean to justify yourself? (You know it’s wrong, but you try to convince yourself and others that it’s right.)
ASK A FEW: What’s the best way we can stop listening to our own justifications (like Doc Oc’s arms) and start serving one master?
AROUND THE CIRCLE: What are you going to do this week, to begin this process in your life?
Like Dr. Octavius’ explanation, sometimes we justify our choices to ourselves, God, and others with logical sounding rationalizations, but just like Proverbs 16:25 (NLT)
says, There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
And just like Dr. Octavius’ demonstration, sometimes our self-serving choices start off working out fine, but we can’t always control which way they end up going.
You can close by putting students in pairs, trios, or by staying as you are, then praying for each other every time two people share.
This chapter is short and easy to read and gives good fodder to ask/answer questions like:
- How do you think Jonah justified disobeying God?
- What kinds of things do you think he said to himself?
- What kinds of thoughts go through your mind when you’re fighting temptation to do something wrong?