Sam and Tobias Find Their Way
Lessons from Tobit
I love the Book of Tobit – and not just because we get to know Raphael the Archangel. I love Tobit because the characters, all in different ways, demonstrate a real trust in God. Tobit never stops trusting God. Even when he can take it no longer, he trusts God to answer his prayer to die. Sarah trusts God in the same way.
But, as with most books of the bible, we see God answering prayers as only He can – demonstrating that He knows what is best for us! In this book, God sends his archangel Raphael down to execute His plan.
Both Tobias and Sam trust Raphael completely – and by extension, God. We see good men act to chase out evil. Tobias, through his actions, chases away the jealous demon and Sam, through his actions, chases away the town bully.
Here are some of things that I think are teachable moments in this book about Sam and Tobias and their journey with Raphael.
Trust comes through prayer. Throughout the book, I intentionally link the two. It is so important to form a relationship with God – and we do that through prayer. Once we are in relationship with Him, we can learn to trust in Him.
There are three archangels. Michael is the defender. Gabriel is the announcer. And Raphael shows us the way. Here in this book, Raphael shows Sam the way times two! Sam is able to help Kharisa by ridding the town of Nikbadu. And Sam finds his way in his own life by finding what he truly loves – helping people who are unable to help themselves. Help people to fight their own bullies.
Guardian angels are an important part of the book. Although I deal with them lightly as a way to interest the reader, I have also shown their strength. Throughout the book, I ensure that the reader learns that they can pray to their guardian angel – Kharisa and the serving girl Nadia both do this. Also Matta talks regularly with Raphael.
It is also important to know that guardian angels receive help from other hierarchies of angels when required – just as Raphael comes to help Matta even though he has a guardian angel as we all do.
As with all my books, I ensure that there is an encouragement for teamwork. In this book, we see teamwork in a number of ways. Kharisa joins with Sam and then Apil and then Joab and then Azariah etc etc to defend herself from Nikbadu. The guardian angels form a team around Raphael. The townspeople join together to support Sam in the courtyard.
The other theme that is in all my books is that each member of the team has strengths and weaknesses – as with the angels. Raphael particularly picks them based on the different strengths they have. Diversity in a team is so important – even in the heavenly realm!
The case between Bunanit and Nikbadu about the ownership of the farm is a real case. In the bibliography, you will find a paper on explaining the Legal Code of Hammurabi and also the case titled Example of a Mesopotamian Court Case. It is great way to talk about our laws and where they come from. We tend to think of ancient times as not relevant today, but in fact, much of how we live today is built on the foundations and laws they established.
The quote from John Stuart Mill is a central theme in the book - “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I see the Book of Tobit talking to this all the way through. Tobit does what is right in the eyes of God – prayer, fasting (denying himself), almsgiving (take care of those around him) and righteousness (do what God taught him to do). He acts always. We see this when he buries the dead, gives to the poor, etc. Tobias is a good man who acts to save Sarah from the demon. Sam is a good man who acts to save Kharisa’s family farm and the town from a bully.
It is important to point out that Sam and Kharisa – through personal invitation – raise many good men to act from the town. That personal invitation is so important to evangelization. If there is a general call-out for people to do good, they will keep their eyes down. But if they are personally invited to do good, they will respond and begin to act.
Anna is an interesting character. While Tobit has complete trust in God that Tobias will be safe on his journey, Anna is the harbinger of bad tidings. She lets her own fears drive her. It is a great lesson about how we should bring our fears to God – hand over the burden. Anna wallows in her fear throughout the book.
Sam, however, has learned to ask God for help. Sam does this a number of times, but the biggest example is found during the courtyard scene when he is able to corner Nikbadu. He asks for help from the Holy Spirit. He knows he can’t do it on his own.
Sam returns home at the end – energized and ready to move forward into his future. What has changed? Sam has learned to listen to God and to trust in Him. He knows that a great adventure is up ahead. In the book there are a few places where a character talks about the great adventure when one trusts and follows God’s direction for their life. Raphael mentions the adventure when thinking about Apil’s future. Tobias refers to the great adventure of casting out demons and chasing away bullies. And, of course, Sam refers to the great adventure he is on – as he trusts in God.
Some smaller things:
Sam takes the high road when he loses the election and concedes graciously and honors Dorothy Lightfoot for winning. There is only one winner is an important concept in politics today. And the one who didn’t win can help for the sake of the people, or can hinder and destroy. A good discussion, I think, here.
The angels, as a team, help and support each other. They celebrate their successes. That is so important in life.
There is talk about bullies. Apil thinks about a bully in his life and they all think about Nikbadu. Bullies can end up turning from their bad ways and becoming true and fast friends. Never give up on someone.
None of the guardian angels have been given names. In our theology, to name something is to gain authority over it. In the Garden of Eden, Adam named the creatures God brought to him – those he was given dominion over. We do not have dominion over our guardian angels. You can find out more here: Don't Name (Or Try To Discover The Name Of) Your Guardian Angel - Good Catholic™