There is something immensely satisfying about unjust people getting their just deserts. In the 2019 murder mystery, Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson (content advisory; spoilers ahead!), we are introduced to the largely reprehensible Thrombey family. Harlan Thrombey, a respectable, self-made murder mystery novelist, is tragically found dead the morning after an eventful evening party with his family. After some initial interviews with the family, the local detectives believe the millionaire’s death is a straightforward, albeit dramatic, suicide. However, private investigator, Benoit Blanc, mysteriously present to assist the police, believes “something is afoot with this whole affair.”
As the story unfurls, we learn that Harlan’s sweet, good-hearted nurse, Marta Cabrera, knows way more than she’s letting on. In fact, Marta believes she accidently killed her millionaire friend by giving him too much of the wrong medicine. However, at the reading of Harlan’s will, a bombshell is dropped. Harlan decided to give all of his resources – house, money and publishing company – to Marta! The Thrombey family which has previously spoken well of Marta and viewed her as “part of the family” suddenly turn like a pack of ravenous wolves on Marta. With their inheritance on the line, the spoiled, selfish Thrombey’s show where their true affections lie – their pocketbooks. Their only hope is the “slayer rule” which indicates that if someone is convicted of murdering a person they cannot receive their inheritance. Suddenly, all eyes fall on Inspector Blanc. Since he suspects foul play, perhaps Marta did it! If so, their fortunes would be restored. But the Thrombey’s prefer the more direct route. Through repeated attempts by different members of the family, the Thrombey’s heartlessly try to coax Marta into renouncing the inheritance. Marta doesn’t budge, but she also doesn’t stop trying to clumsily clear her own name.
In the end, Inspector Blanc puts it all together and solves the case just in the nick of time. Marta isn’t guilty of Harlan’s murder. A disgruntled grandson, Ransom, tried to frame her and ended up killing the housekeeper to cover his tracks. Despite her initial horror, Marta didn’t actually kill Harlan, but instead gave him the correct medication. Tragically, it appears Harlan died by unintentional (or was it intentional?) suicide. As the movie closes, Marta looks out over the front balcony as Ransom is taken away in handcuffs and the dejected Thrombey clan look up to Marta to see what their fate will be. Marta, sipping from Harlan’s old cup, brings it to her mouth and on the cup is written the words, “My house, my rules, my coffee.” Poetic justice indeed!
As previously mentioned, there is something immensely satisfying about seeing unjust people get what they deserve. The Thrombey family, save Harlan and possibly his granddaughter, Meg, got what they had coming to them. Their selfish, greedy, ruthless ways should not have been rewarded with a grand inheritance and it wasn’t. Though not perfect, Marta’s kindness and sacrificial love should have been rewarded and it was. When we see justice served like this, there is something deep in the human psyche, in the human heart which cries out, “Yes!” Proverbs 21:15 says, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Knives Out echoes this truth vividly.
Yet as I thought about the movie and its characters more, I realized that Biblically speaking, you and I are more like the Thrombey’s than we’d care to admit. Despite first appearances, each of us is naturally rotten to the core with sin (see Romans 3:10-18). Though we delude ourselves into thinking we deserve the riches of a heavenly inheritance on our own merit, each of us is morally bankrupt in God’s sight. We don’t have a shred of righteousness to our names. As the Thrombey’s experienced, our just lot is to be cast out – out of God’s presence and place. Too often, when I watch movies, I want to put myself in the shoes of the hero. I want to be the Marta or the Inspector Blanc of the story. Yet when I read the Bible, I am anything but the hero. Left to myself, I am the selfish, greedy slave to sin. My knife is out, and I want to take God off His throne, so that I can get all the riches and glory for myself.
But praise be to God that He didn’t leave me that way! Instead, the Bible tells us that the real Hero of the story, Jesus, stepped down from the balcony of heaven to bear my just punishment for me. As 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” Instead of being cast out of God’s family, Jesus warmly welcomes me into God’s family. But not only that, He also makes me new. A chapter before, the Apostle Peter says about Christ, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). No longer do I have to be a slave to sin like the Thrombey’s. I am a beloved heir, a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:19).
So, as movies go, Knives Out ends in a very satisfying way. Justice is served to the unjust. Yet, the Bible tells an even better story. Injustice was served to the just Jesus, so that unjust like you and me might experience the lavish riches of God’s inheritance as new people, new creations in Christ. And one day, Jesus will return to enact a faultless final justice on the unrepentant and make all things new for His forgiven family. Surely, for God’s people, beleaguered and weary as we may be in this life, that is an ending well worth waiting for.