Mozart, Salieri, and “Do Stuff”

In the opening of the movie, Amadeus, Antonio Salieri prays that God would give him the musical ability of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He then vows to the Almighty:

In return [for supreme musical talent], I give you my chastity, my industry, my deepest humility.

Salieri banks his whole life on this bargain he makes with God. He thinks he has God under contract: he gives his devotion to God, then God owes him talent back.

Worse, Salieri thinks this deal is the essence of self-abasing piety; it truly is anything but. His bargain is one of “Do Stuff”:

  • “God, if I do things for you, then You owe me one.”
  • “God, what is my obedience worth to You? What will You give me back?”
  • “God, I want to be like someone else. If I live for you, then You must answer my request.”

These aren’t the words of a humble, grace-based man. These are the words of a Pharisee, basing his standing with God on his own “do stuff.”

Flying in the face of Salieri’s legalistic covenant, Mozart is the picture of immorality. He is promiscuous, unfaithful, blasphemous, alcoholic, and rebellious; but God gives him, not Salieri, the gift of musical genius. This only further maddens Salieri, the Pharisee.

The rest of the movie shows Salieri thrust himself into darkness, leaving us with the impression that such a man is no picture of virtue at all; he is a monster. Though the Pharisee smiles, he’s trying to tear another man’s life apart. In the end, he succeeds.

Or does he? As he narrates the movie’s scenes, Salieri shows himself to be madly insane, still angered that God did not gift him as he did Mozart. The Pharisee’s false humility did nothing to change his soul.

The question for you and I is this: do we try to hold vows over God’s head, as though God owed us something? Or do we bow before Him and say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord”?


About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

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