Lesson: Les Miserables 1--Changing Lives

Story by Victor Hugo

 Jean Valjean was granted probation after spending 19 years in jail.  No one would hire him for a good job.  He was told to see a priest who ended up giving him food and a night stay.  He saw the silver utensils the priest used, and that night he stole them and fled.  Police caught him and he told the police that the silver utensils were gifts from the priest.  They brought him to the priest and the priest said it's true, and he asked Valjean why he had forgotten the golden candlesticks.  The priest sent the police away and then told Valjean to take the precious silver and gold and start a new life, for he has bought his soul for God with those gold and silver.  Valjean was so moved that he broke probation and started a new life in a new town.

19 years ago, Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed a child.  What did the 19-year sentence do to Valjean?
- He came to distrust people
- He might have tried to obey the law, but he found out that people would not treat him like a human being because he made a mistake before

How was the priest able to change Valjean when 19 years of jail couldn't and actually made him worse?
- The priest showed him the good side of people (e.g., love, sacrifice), and that there's a God who loves him.
- The priest made a major sacrifice for Valjean--he lied on his behalf.  The priest had the reason and opportunity to turn Valjean to the police but he chose to forgive him and help him.

Sometimes people don't come to Jesus just because you tell them to.  Sometimes you have to do things that would show them the love of God.  Often this means making sacrifices for them.  Why should you even bother?  Talking is free, but spending money or time with them may be hard for many of us.  Sometimes it is very draining (emotionally and time-wise) to try to help someone.  But these may be the steps that need to be taken in order to change lives.

This lesson was developed by George Huang.  Got a question or want to publish this lesson?  E-mail me.

Last updated: 6/24/2000