John Grisham’s Guide to the Depravity of Man

John Grisham's Guide to the Depravity of Man

Over the summer, I have made it a point to increase my reading load. Mein Kampf, Pride and Prejudice, A Man Called Peter, Pontius Pilate, and many others have been the subject of my reading. Yet, standing apart from the rest, a single author has recaptured my attention, returning my reading to the world of novels.

This man is known as John Grisham.

John Grisham is a former criminal lawyer who, after 10 years in law, left his practice and began writing law novels. Since then, he has been published in dozens of languages and has sold over 275 million copies worldwide. A practicing Christian, Grisham’s unique writing style presents an extremely accurate portrayal of man in all forms, from the richest of lawyers to the poorest of children.

While Grisham’s books can be (and often are) depressing, he paints a picture of man’s sinfulness that is yet to be matched, digging into the heart of man and showing the darkness, but also finding good. Even in portraying the most horrible slob in his book, he still finds a ray of goodness. From here, we can learn three major lessons from Grisham’s view of man.

1: Money corrupts.

In his highly-debated book The King of Torts (mature, recommended ages 17+), Grisham shows the change that money can bring to men. Clay, a poor lawyer struggling to succeed in his job, hits a “lawyer’s jackpot”, landing a case that puts $15 million in his pocket. In an instant, Clay is elevated from the lower, working-class into the rich and successful. Refusing to see the pain that the money has brought him (even his longtime girlfriend leaves him), Clay forages on, attempting to create an even greater future and hoping to make more money.

In the end, he fails, and ultimately declares bankruptcy. He has lied, cheated, and even, unbeknownst to him, caused a death. His drive for money and power was greater than anything he could ever find.

Yet, in the end, his friends surround him and lift him out of the pit. He gives up most of his money, and his girlfriend returns to him. He redeems relationships and comes clean in court.

Grisham shows the disgusting habits exercised by many of the rich and famous. In one scene, a lawyer brings two “secretaries” with him onto a yacht, offering them to any of his guests as “toys”. In another scene, an obscenely rich tort lawyer discusses his two Gulfstream jets, each costing a cool $40 million, with an additional $2 million annually for upkeep.

Thankfully, Grisham also finds the good in people. While he isn’t one of those that refuse to see the bad, he has an equal understanding of man’s depravity and God’s gift of goodness. He shows the bad but doesn’t forget to remind show his audience the small pieces of goodness.

2: Unsaved man has three goals in life: money, power, and success.

Grisham makes it clear: in his search for money, power, and success, man is willing to do anything. His thirst for money is endless; when given $10 million, he begins to wish for $100 million. One Gulfstream seems like too few, so he buys another.

In the end, the only answer is God. Man, in his depravity, looks to fulfill his desires in the world. Saved man knows that his desires can only be fulfilled in God, and he is willing to give everything, even his life, to draw closer to Him.

As Christians, we understand that success is only measured by our relationship with Christ. Money and power mean nothing in our Christian walk and should be treated accordingly. Our focus is God, not the world, and in Him we can trust.

3: The path to success and power only leads to death.

Power corrupts, and success builds ego. Without a clear, rich grounding in real friends and family, along with a full mind set on Jesus, every man will go down this path whether he like it or not.

Money, too, can lead men down the wrong path. In his novel The Rainmaker, Grisham actually shows that poor men with relationships are happier than rich men spending their time in solitude. The underlying message seems to be “money and success are great, but relationship is the most important thing in life.”

Furthermore, we find that, while our general relationships are important, nothing is more important than our relationship with God. That relationship is the key, defining factor to our life and success as Christians. Without it, we have no hope, but within it, we find the greatest hope imaginable.

“While our general relationships are important, nothing is more important than our relationship with God. That relationship is the key, defining factor to our life and success as Christians.” -Elisha McFarland


Grisham’s portrayal of man’s depravity was beyond excellent- it was unparalleled. In a writing style closely reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor, he shows man at his worst, but also leaves the slightest ray of hope. As Christians, we should remember that God works great things in even the most stonehearted of men (myself especially). There is no-one greater than our God!

Alright, that’s all for today. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have an awesome day.

-Elisha McFarland

Last post: Monday Q&A 3: Scripture

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Related post: How to Criticize Criticism

Image credit to LearnLiberty.

Author’s note: My apologies for the recent lack of posts. I have been taking a much-needed break from my writing, but I have now returned in full force. Thank you for your patience, and be sure to watch out for more posts!

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15 thoughts on “John Grisham’s Guide to the Depravity of Man

  1. I’m curious as to your reason behind commenting- I’m not saying all money is bad, far from it. My grandfather owned his own (very successful) business and made thousands. He was very rich. It is a gift from God.
    Also, simply because someone has a lot of money, doesn’t believe they don’t think money corrupts. Even if I had that much money, I’d still think the same thing, because it’s true. I would view my personal money as a gift from God, yet I also know of it’s power.
    Thank you for taking the time to read 🙂

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    1. I’m glad you disagree, and I didn’t take it personally. Yet the Bible says that EVERYTHING is a gift from God. That doesn’t exclude money, you know. Money is a gift from God, and if a man is given such, it is because God has given him this. Furthermore, Grisham isn’t moralizing- I’m merely showing a point based on an interesting worldview. I said this quite clearly in the post. If you want to say that money has nothing to do with God, I’d greatly appreciate a verse that says such.

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      1. You mean like you reap like what you sow? People can pervert scripture to serve all their rhetorical needs, overlooking the entire point of the New Testament, which is redemption on a grand scale.

        Imagine the conceit of thinking that God has an interest in micromanaging your finances, as if that’s what this whole thing is about – you and how you feel about your relative comfort level. Why even bother to work? Just put your cash in the stock market and let God invest it for you according to the value of your soul and your special role in His project of creation. That’s pure narcissism, and it diminishes the concept of God. Since God is this interested in the details of our lives, did God pick out your outfit today? Do you thank God for telling you to wear a coat when it starts to rain? Like God cares about your eternal soul but also the Doppler radar and the spot price of oil? Or maybe inanimate objects are inanimate objects?

        You would do well in your studies to learn the difference between spirituality and moralizing. Grisham is moralizing. Your post is moralizing. You are now trying to pick a fight over your moralizing. But you can relax now. You have finally persuaded me to stop talking religion with a teenager.

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      2. Ma’am, my Bible tells me not to talk with fools, nor to attempt to reason with them. If you’re going to insult my intelligence, you lower yourself to the level of the teenager you have said you wish to stop discussing with. I have one thing to say- Romans 8:28. God has control in every single thing. Every. Single. Thing. Regardless of whether you don’t agree with that, that’s what the Bible says. Period. End of story. Sorry, but it’s the truth.
        I’ll be praying for you.

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  2. Ella Smalley

    Sounds like an amazing book. I will have to read it sometime, as long as you assure me that it isn’t exactly like Flannery O’Conner. Just not a big fan of her style. Great post, thanks for sharing.

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  3. This post is very interesting for me since I have been reading John Grisham since I was like 16 and he inspired me to actually want to be a lawyer after high school (hopefully). His way of writing is super natural and very relatable to the present world we live in, does that make sense ? Anyway, basing on your above post, I think you’d love Gray Mountain and if you’re not too busy you could also look up the Pelican Brief.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Monday Q&A 6: God and Man – Elisha McFarland

  5. Pingback: The Tragic Loss of Real Masculinity – Elisha McFarland

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