The assumption that Willy Wonka’s origin story lacks any biblical themes might be a sweeping generalization held by someone with an Oompa Loompa-sized brain. However, I must confess that I went into Paul King’s Wonka somewhat devoid of any such expectations. Perhaps my indifference came from weariness in the midst of a monotonous college semester. Or maybe it was due to the daily grind of young adulthood. But when the theater lights dimmed, I was transported not only into Willy Wonka’s reality, but one that was once my own, as well.

As a young girl, the pages of my beloved Roald Dahl classics were falling apart at the seams. Even so, Wonka’s youthful imagination remained intact on each and every page. His courage to transform a childlike creativity into a prosperous career not only edified my own childhood imagination, but it continues to enlighten my spirit as I enter my twenties. I went into the theater with an idle openness and found myself leaving it with a reinvigorated mind.

When I first decided to dive head-first into this coming-of-age narrative behind childhood’s most adored chocolatier, I uncovered a true sanctity that reflects God’s own redemptive story. This richly colorful film is a golden ticket for dreamers of all ages, granting them permission to be bewildered by the peculiar hunch that something truly spectacular is imminent.

Wonka inspires a cherished hope, one that’s written on the heart of every believer. If I took anything away from Timothée Chalamet’s charming, wide-eyed take on the zany chocolate connoisseur, it’s that the recipe to a sweeter life is simply opening your mind to things unseen.

This article contains potential spoilers for Wonka.

Sacrificial Love and Childlike Faith: Two Ingredients for a Meaningful Life

Wonka inspires a cherished hope, one that’s written on the heart of every believer.

As the opening number “Hatful of Dreams” begins, we meet a wide-eyed Willy arriving on land after a seven-year voyage across the sea. As he waltzes into the world-renowned Galerie Gourmet that houses all of the grandest chocolate shops, his dream of opening his own store is so close to fulfillment he can taste it. What Willy might lack in resources and perhaps self-awareness as he dances around bewildered onlookers, he makes up for with his determined mission to share his mother’s chocolate-making legacy to the world.

However, it hardly takes him all four minutes and twenty-six seconds of the number to realize that instead of his dreams paying off, they are going to make him pay up. When his expensive first day ends in a bout of bad luck with one of his prized coins slipping down the city drain, the tension of an innocent spirit being confronted by mounting outward challenges is palpable. But this energetic sequence ultimately emphasizes Willy’s resistance to the anxious world in pursuit of selflessness. Upon nightfall, Willy graciously gives whatever little money he has left to a mother and child looking for a place to sleep. Luke 16:10 says that “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much,” a sentiment that represents Willy’s act of good stewardship foreshadowing his coming success. Lacking money and a place to sleep, though, Willy resorts to a bench in an alleyway, his dreams seemingly even farther from his grasp.

Down on his luck, Willy encounters a gruff man named Bleacher who lures him into a fraudulent boarding house run by Mrs. Scrubitt. There, he unknowingly signs a deceptive contract that not only puts him into debt but also requires him to carry out unwarranted labor for his disgruntled landlords. Here, Willy forms a bond with Noodle, a young orphan girl also trapped in Bleacher and Scrubbit’s schemes. Early on, Willy tells Noodle about his chocolate-coated dream to open his own shop. He even showcases his on-the-go “travel factory” suitcase, using ingredients like “silver linings made from condensed thunderclouds” and “liquid sunlight” to encourage Noodle to remain hopeful in her own bleak circumstances.

Willy is a living testament that beauty resides adjacent to pain. Echoing James 1:2-3, his personal testimony shows that having a joyful countenance in the midst of trials is not only possible, but worthwhile. His natural jauntiness doesn’t discount his obvious encounter with grief, but rather, enhances it.

Willy’s mystical eccentricity also uplifts the Galerie Gourmet’s patrons—physically even, thanks to his specialty Hoverchocs which enable people to take flight. Through miraculous signs and wonders, Willy’s Christ-like nature pleasantly interrupts ordinary lives. The audience witnesses this at the film’s culmination, when Willy strikes a deal with the elitist Chocolate Cartel members; they’ll pay off his friends’ debts if he leaves the city for good. At the drop of a hat, Willy gives up his coveted dream so his friends can pursue theirs in freedom. This is a visual representation of Christ’s sacrifice for us, reminding believers to deny themselves no matter the cost (Luke 9:23–24). This truth not only changes the lives of those around him, but his own perspective when he uncovers his mother’s final shiny note: “It’s not the chocolate that matters. It’s the people you share it with.”

His mother’s wisdom leads Willy to share her final chocolate bar with his friends, symbolizing a fundamental biblical principle that all believers have an innate calling to invite others into the grandeur of Christ’s love. Willy realizes that the magic wasn’t in the creation, but from the spirit within himself and the other esteemed souls around him.

Built upon all of these qualities is a foundation of childlike faith. From the disastrous opening day of his chocolate shop to bearing witness to Noodle’s dream of meeting her mother coming true, Willy maintains an unrelenting grip on long-awaited dreams becoming reality. In Matthew 18:2-4, Jesus draws attention to that special, untainted quality in children that makes them more inclined to adopt a spirit of faith. This is the driving force in Willy’s story that not only ends up with his dream ultimately coming to fruition, but also propels him into a future exceeding his wildest expectations. Similarly, Noodle’s original wish of one day residing in a house of books with her mother is completely eclipsed by the beautiful reality of her mother’s embrace on the steps of the city’s grandest library.

A Gift Is All the Sweeter When It Is Given Away

Before the world knew Willy Wonka through his extravagant factory, he was a magnet that drew people in to experience something greater for themselves. Rather than his products being inaccessible behind shop windows, he was personal to those he came in contact with. Similar to Jesus’ approach during his earthly ministry, Willy changed people’s lives through offering something authentic.

Everywhere he went, he shared his calling with people from an abundance of the heart, even when he didn’t have the commercial success to do so. In 2 Timothy 4:2, we are called to be prepared, in all seasons, to share the good news to willing ears. Believers are called to live knowing that true victory is not contingent on worldly success. No endeavor this side of heaven can amount to the awe-inspiring possession of Christ’s invitation to us, and he draws us into his kingdom so that our gifts can be used throughout the journey. Willy takes a similar approach wholeheartedly.

Although Willy’s competitors might have rejected what he was offering, his influence was undeniable. Like the cast sings in “You’ve Never Had Chocolate Like This,” he puts a hole in his competitor’s profits because he’s filling the hole in people’s hearts. Willy’s persistence motivates him to pursue his calling despite the deceitful opposition, and he feels so strongly about his creation that he would push onward to make it known to the world.

Tasting and Seeing That a Pure Creation Is Good

It was Willy’s pure imagination that brought a certain magnetism to his character, providing a gift that people didn’t even know they were missing in the first place. Once the citizens tasted Wonka Chocolate, however, they simply couldn’t return to what they had indulged in before. Their hearts and minds were unlocked, allowing them to see and understand that what they now had was so much better.

Like his own maker, Willy had a front row seat to the power of dreams, and he used his gifts as a means to inspire that hope in others. This is a hope that transcends even Dahl’s immaculate storytelling, and it’s a legacy that continues to penetrate the part of the soul that doesn’t need to thrive solely in our youth. Willy’s pure imagination wasn’t quenched by age or opposition, but was built to transcend his reality. At Wonka’s core, we are reminded that having faith takes courage in a downtrodden world.

For Christians, then, Wonka serves as a stark reminder to hold onto the hope that resides in each one of us, a hope that withstands any circumstance. When we look for the countless promises that God has granted us, we find freedom. The 2023 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s cherished classic speaks to that inner child hidden somewhere in all of us, and it’s a petition to “quiet up and listen down” to the too-often overlooked simplicity of the Gospel—a treat that is truly the sweetest one of all.