One of my all-time favorite stories is Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. I recently re-read it. If you don’t know the story, Charlotte the spider is really the heroine in the story but she spends the whole story to make Wilbur, the pig, a hero. Wilbur is kind of whiney, annoying, needy, mopey and being the runt, a not very impressive pig at all. He’s also lonely and seems to always be fainting! He feels unwanted. To make matters worse, he was born a pig, and as a pig, he is destined to die. In fact, the sheep tell him, “You know that the only reason they’re feeding you so much is so that they can fatten you up and turn you into smoked bacon and ham.” Wilbur starts screaming, “I don’t want to die! Somebody save me!”
Charlotte the spider befriends him and once Wilbur becomes aware of his fate, Charlotte makes a solemn promise to save Wilbur from his sentence of condemnation, no matter what. She decides to weave words in her web to impress the humans...but not toward her, but to Wilbur. So she weaves words like “some pig,” “radiant” and “terrific” at various points in the novel. Even as she is expecting her 514 babies in her magnum opus egg sack, she risks and spends her life trying to save Wilbur. She saves Wilbur through this, even though Wilbur can do nothing for her. Even as you see her weaving these words, you realize she should be weaving, “Some spider” because she is! And really she’s the one who is truly radiant and terrific, not Wilbur…but she receives no glory and imputes these words freely to Wilbur's credit. The last word she weaves is “humble,” which is again, really what Charlotte embodies. The word “humble” is what finally brings salvation, if you will, to Wilbur. In fact, White towards the end of the book writes, “Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited…knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all.”
Wilbur is incredibly humbled yet given incredible confidence through Charlotte’s love for him. Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.” Charlotte said, “You’ve been a friend to me.” "Well," said Wilbur. "I'm no good at making speeches. I haven't got your gift for words. But you have saved me, Charlotte, and I would gladly give my life for you - I really would.” Amazing!
He is so self-absorbed and a slave to his appetite, especially for food. When he serves others, it's only because of a hidden agenda, namely, of what he’ll get out of it. White calls him a rat “…with no consideration, no decency, no milk of rodent kindness…no friendliness, no anything.” But in the story, Charlotte, though she has an incredible vocabulary herself, even uses him to find words for Wilbur.
You know Scripture says, “Greater love has no man than this, that He lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It makes sense in Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte said it. “You’re a good friend to me.” But we know what Christ truly did was a greater love. It was a love that laid down His life not for friends, but for HIS ENEMIES. We are all Templetons. We are selfish and live for our appetites and live to serve ourselves, but in the mystery of all mysteries, the Lord Jesus loved His own still, decided to die for us and wants to still use us, though He doesn't need us. What a love! What a Savior! One who takes our condemnation so we could receive His commendation. One who does not just weave His love on a web, but even engraves our names on His heart.
*This blog post was also inspired by this one.