Money Monster is one of those rich movies that will give you plenty to talk about afterward, if you are only willing to overlook the language (and I am in no way implying that you should). Whether or not you choose to see the movie, this article will equip you take advantage of the movie and have some meaningful discussions about life, character and even faith.
Synopsis: A young man, Lee, invests his inheritance in a stock that Kyle, (George Clooney), an obnoxious money-guy on TV guarantees is a sure bet. There’s a “glitch” in the “system” and 800 million dollars are “lost”. Lee wants answers and he wants an apology from both Kyle and Walt Camby (the company owner) and to get those, he shows up at the TV station with a gun and a bomb. Lee’s persistence that there should be accountability and that people don’t just loose that much money is contagious. Before long, Kyle and the watching world begin to agree, there should be some accountability. It’s not enough to say there was a “glitch” in the algorithm or the system. That’s an easy scapegoat because people don’t understand the process, so no one questions it. But seriously, what happened? What does it mean that there was a glitch and how can it be prevented from happening again? “Glitch” implies there was no error, and therefore no one wronged the people who lost their money. “Glitch” implies accident, but Lee wasn’t satisfied with that as an answer. It’s too easy. No one had to recognize his pain, apologize, and/or accept responsibility.
Lee’s passion and persistence paid off. Others got on board and begin to look a little deeper only discover the “glitch” answer wasn’t as satisfying as they thought. Walt Camby’s own people who had stood behind him and believed everything he had said began to realize things didn’t add up. Before long, the truth came out: Camby was a crook.
Accountability: A core theme of the movie is accountability. Lee felt that someone needed to be accountable for the “glitch”. “Somehow these clowns lost 800 million over night and nobody even knows how!” Until Lee, however, no one had really dug that deep into the matter. Essentially, no one was holding anyone accountable. Lee started with Kyle, who had gone on record telling everyone it was a sure investment. Lee started to pass the blame, but Kyle held his feet to the fire, replaying for him exactly what he had said guaranteeing that investment. “You don’t get to pass the buck today, Lee.” Once the gravity of what Lee had done, the truth of his own part in the mess, really sunk in, he quit being defensive and began to help Kyle get answers.
Camby’s COO got on the line and began reciting her talking points. She gave her safe, polished public relations spin. And in so doing, she too missed the heart of the matter. That’s the thing with PR spins, they aren’t designed to take accountability, but rather to make everything palatable. They deflect responsibility rather than assume it.
Part of the reason, in this scenario, that people weren’t holding Camby and his company accountable is what the algorithm’s programmer pointed out: “If nobody can understand the math then no one has to explain the money.” When people don’t understand the system, they don’t know how to question it. The general population doesn’t understand computer algorithms that dictate the stock market, so when something has a “glitch”, how are we to know if that’s possible or not? We assume those things happen. Computers do have glitches from time to time after all. One easy to way to avoid accountability is to make things too complicated for people to understand (or at least to convince others that this is so).
What does the Bible have to say about this? Well, first off, whether or not a guy like Camby gets away with something on this earth, we have this promise: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). And also, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10). God knows our hearts and we will be held accountable for our deeds. This is great news…well, at least for guys like Kyle who have been wronged and need to know someone is held accountable for it. When Kyle took matters into his own hands, it went badly. He did get the answers he was looking for, but it came at a high price. It’s a relief to know that, if we can be patient, God will handle it. He will ensure justice is met and all are held accountable.
On the other hand, this is weighty news for us, too. It means we will be held accountable as well. And God knows our hearts. We can lie to others; we can even lie to ourselves, but we cannot lie to God. He knows the parts of our hearts we don’t even know ourselves. For those of us who have trusted God as our savior, however, this isn’t a fearsome thing. Jesus was held accountable on the cross for all our sins.
Off on a Technicality: Another reason why Camby wasn’t accountable for his actions is that he had convinced himself he hadn’t done anything wrong. “Tell me one law I broke? This is just business, and this is how business is done.” He goes on to say that “You only came after me because you lost your money. As long as everyone’s making money, no one cares.” Sadly, he’s a bit right about that. People didn’t want to hold him accountable as long as everyone was benefitting from what he was doing. When people stopped benefitting, that’s when they wanted answers. While a sad statement about the nature of man, that, however, is not an excuse for his behavior. Neither was his defense that he hadn’t actually broken any laws. He was content to get off on a technicality, not caring at all if what he had done was right or honest or noble or good…so long as he couldn’t get in trouble for it.
It’s not enough to just not do “wrong” in this world, we are called to do right. We are called to be holy as God is holy. We are called to a life of righteousness, to live like Jesus. This is far beyond just not doing anything technically wrong. Everyone knew that Camby had intentionally done wrong. Hiding behind technicalities is just one more sign of his lack of accountability to anything—a moral conscience, his fellow man, God…
Language Makes a Difference: Kyle got irate whenever he heard the word “glitch”. Why? Because language makes a difference, and he got that. A glitch, according to Wikipedia, is a “short-lived fault in a system. It is often used to describe a transient fault that corrects itself, and is therefore difficult to troubleshoot.” “It means something’s gone wrong and you can’t figure out what it is so you call it a ‘glitch’”. Do you see how different this is from saying there was a mistake, or a theft (which is what it truly was)? Language is a monumental way in which we either take accountability or deflect or shirk it. Kyle knew that as long as people referred to what happened as a glitch, no one would be held accountable.
This is why God uses words like “sin” in the Bible. I get that it’s not a very popular word. I get that it doesn’t make us feel good about things we have done to call them sins. Our world is constantly repackaging things to make them more palatable, to ease our sense of accountability and guilt, but God doesn’t do that. He goes right it and uses the right word, the word that holds us accountable and calls a thing what it is. It may seem brutal or harsh, but it’s actually freeing. As long as we hide behind technicalities and misleading language, we’ll always be afraid that we’ll be found out. And worse, we’ll never get right nor free others. When Camby finally admitted what he’d done, Kyle was freed. He found peace. That was all he’d wanted to hear. Confession is good for the soul – both yours and those around you.
God so loves us that He isn’t content to let us lie to ourselves. He wants more than for us to simply feel good about ourselves, he wants us to feel right about ourselves. He wants us to see our sin for what it is, because only then will we come to Him to get healing and to get right. Just like a Dr. who cares about his patients will call cancer cancer. He knows that it is no kindness to a patient to tell them they are fine if they are not. If he tells them what ails them is no big deal, everyone has it, it’s fine, don’t worry about it… they won’t take care of it and it will kill them. Better he speak the truth, tell them what they have is fatal unless dealt with. It most certainly won’t be what they want to hear and won’t “feel good” to hear it, but it will be right. It will help them see themselves rightly so that they can find true health and life. When we call things what they are, we speak that same life into them.
Surviving Accountability: Part of the reason why we don’t want to admit our wrongs is because we don’t know if we can come back from that. We tend toward extremes. When we really face our depravity, the depths of our wrongs, the lie comes in that we are worthless and have no right to live. Camby and Lee weren’t the only ones who had to face their sins. Kyle had to, also. In his quest for justice, he committed injustice. Others were hurt because of his actions. Lee didn’t soft coat the truth—that wouldn’t have helped anyone, and Kyle knew better. “You made a mistake”—Lee began by speaking the truth about the present. He didn’t stop there, however. He offered hope: “It doesn’t mean your life is over.” We can move on from our mistakes. Again, this is the beauty of Jesus. This is His message. We did sin. It’s bad enough the only way to deal with it is death. However, He paid the penalty so that we can move on with our lives. We can not only accept the payment for our sins, but we can also accept His Holy Spirit which works in us to make us holy and to keep us from sin. When we accept Jesus, we become new creatures. The past is done. It happened, but it’s done. Now we have a future we can live for. The past doesn’t define us. Such good news!!!
Let Money Monster be a reminder to us that we don’t need to run from accountability, but rather to see it as something that helps us run to Jesus.
Questions for Discussion:
- Have you ever been wronged by someone that wasn’t held accountable for their actions? What did you do?
- Does it give you comfort or fear to know that God will hold everyone accountable in the end?
- Have you ever gotten off on a technicality, but known you were still guilty? How did that make you feel?
- Are you more concerned with not doing wrong, or with doing right? Is there even a difference?
- Have you ever tried to get out of a situation by changing the language to make it more acceptable? How do you feel when others do that to you?
- How does calling something what it really is actually free us?
- If you had cancer, would you rather a doctor make you “feel good” about yourself right now, or tell you the truth so you could truly heal later? How is this like dealing with your sin?
- Do you ever feel like you won’t be able to recover from big mistakes?
Click here to read Shepherd Project’s discussion of Captain America, which deals with the idea of accountability from a different perspective.