The interesting idea here is that tin doesn’t rust; it oxidizes, but iron-based metals rust. So why did the Tin Man rust?
Unlike in the famous 1939 movie, originally, the Tin Man wasn’t tin, he was made of wood. In L. Frank Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, we’re told that the Woodman experiences some tragedies, which cause him to become The Tin Woodman.
Woodman, otherwise known as the “Tin Man,” was your everyday, average person made of flesh and bones whose name was Nick Chopper. He was a very skilled woodsman like his father before him. Nick learned this craft from his dad and like his dad, ended up chopping down trees in Oz for a living. In Oz there was a wicked witch east of Oz who controlled an area called “Munchkin Country.”
Mr. Chopper was in love with a munchkin and the wicked witch did not approve, so she covertly bewitched Chopper’s axe so that each time he swung it, he missed the wood and cut off one of his limbs. Every time that happened, Nick would go see a man named Ku-Klip, the town’s tinsmith, who would make Chopper a new limb out of tin. Eventually, he ended up being made entirely of tin. But Ku-Klip was unable to replace Tin Man’s heart, which had broken due to the fact that he was unable to marry his beloved munchkin, with a fabricated one so Tin Man’s heart was never replaced.
Tin Man began as flesh and bones, but little by little he was broken down by his own hands, rebuilt artificially of tin and then left without a heart.
I realize that in terms of science tin doesn’t rust, so we need to assume that he was coated with steel or another metal that rusts. But I’d like to take another approach here and go out on a limb (no pun intended) and answer that the reason the Tin Man rusted was simply that he no longer had love!
The condition of a heartless individual could look very much like the Tin Man, stuck in the wilderness, rusted and waiting for someone to come along and love you back to life again. We know without doubt that we cannot live without a heart; I trust that we know we cannot live without love either.
So why the oil?
In the scriptural text oil was used for lighting the lamps at the temple, anointing priests and kings, and is a symbol generally associated with the Holy Spirit. It’s also linked to the word “gladness.”
In Psalms 45:7 (KJV) we read: "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
The Hebrew word for “gladness” is simchah, meaning cheerfulness, welcome, joy; rejoicing.
In the Greek it is agalliasis, meaning exultant joy…wild joy, ecstatic delight, exultation, exhilaration.”
With all the challenges we face, gladness isn’t the easiest emotion to hold on to, so we could all use more oil to keep the gladness running over, especially in troubling times. The daily tasks, and trials of relationships, the setbacks, heartbreaks and disappointments may often make us feel as though our heart, too, has been ripped out of us, that we have given to another everything we can, to no avail, leaving us in a similar predicament as the Tin Man, rigid, stiff and stuck. But rather than waiting until we become so rusted from loneliness and grief, we should anoint ourselves with the restorative oil of scripture.
In Isaiah 61:1-3 (KJV) it is written that, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;”
That is exactly what the oil did for the Tin Man. It set him free from bondage, thereby enabling him to travel with Dorothy and friends to Oz, where he ends up getting a new heart. So let us remember to keep the oil of gladness within our own reach, lubricating our thoughts with love in order to keeps us from getting stuck and losing heart!
A Post script; “Steel rusts, elder wood does not, it is soft and Venice was built on it ref. Spurgeon Sermon 538 “Caleb, A Man for Times.”
KJV-King James Bible Dictionaries.