The lessons we can learn from Tom Sawyer

The lessons we can learn from Tom Sawyer

In Mark Twain’s classic ‘Tom Sawyer’ the young hero falls in love with a girl at school called Becky Thatcher, writes Dave Littlewood.

She’s from a refined family and wants nothing to do with the worldly Tom, but he pursues her anyway.

One day Tom comes into the empty classroom and sees Becky at the teacher’s desk reading a book on human biology with illustrations – that only the teacher is allowed to read. Becky is having a clandestine peep.

When she sees Tom she shuts the book quickly – accidentally tearing the page. She’s immediately filled with rage at Tom for fear of the consequences: “Tom Sawyer! You hateful boy! Now I’m gonna get whipped!” These were the ‘good old days’ when corporal punishment was common.

The class fills and the lesson begins. Becky is frightened. Even more so when the teacher sets the class some work and opens the book to read. Suddenly he comes to the damaged page.

“Who tore this book?” he asks.


No answer from the class, so the teacher begins to question them one by one to see who will give themselves away under his steely gaze.
Tom knows that he could have lied with a straight face, but that Becky will burst into tears and give herself away. How can he help her as her turn comes?

“Becky Thatcher,” says the teacher. “Did you tear this book?”

Suddenly Tom springs to his feet. “I done it!” he cries. The teacher is amazed and Tom takes an awful flogging. He also has to stay in an hour after school as further punishment.

But when he comes out a young girl is waiting for him with tears of gratitude. “Tom,” she says, “how could you have been so noble!”
Out of love for a girl who despised him, Tom took the punishment she deserved.

This story illustrates a principle that runs through the Bible – that of sacrifice. An innocent victim takes the place of a guilty sinner.

The ultimate example of this was when Jesus took our place, dying on the cross. We have all sinned and rightly deserve punishment, but Jesus willingly laid down his life so that we could go free.

From New Life Newspaper issue 321.


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