In Babette's Feast the first line of a hymn, "Jerusalem, my heart's true home" creates an underlying motif throughout the film. The hymn indicates that an individual's home exists within the heart. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands his people not to store up for themselves treasures on earth, but to store for themselves treasures in heaven. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6: 21). For Babette and Philippa, their treasures are their passions for their personal arts, cooking for Babette and singing for Philippa. The each have the power to go to France to develop their talents, but they see that by developing their talents on earth, they store for themselves treasures limited to earth.
As the film progresses, the viewer sees that these women have within their souls the capability to become great artists; however, as the hymn suggests, their true home is not where moth and rust destroy, but in the hope of fulfilling their abilities in heaven. Of the many artists present in the film, one primary artist, Philippa, chooses to remain at home with her father, sister, and congregation instead of developing her talent as a singer in Paris. Had she become a famous singer in France, she would have been storing up for herself on earth a treasure in singing. She sacrifices the desire of her heart, developing her voice, and as a result adopts the hope of singing for the angels in heaven. Her decision to end her lessons with Achille Papin comes with feelings of anxiety and sadness. She longs to be with Papin, but more strongly desires to please her father.
Because of the love she has for her father, she complies with his request, denying both her love for Papin and her voice. In a letter from Papin to Philippa, he writes, "I feel that the grave is not the end. In Paradise I shall hear your voice again. There you will sing, without fears or scruples, as God meant yo to sing.
There you will be the great artist that God meant you to be. Ah! How you will enchant the angels." Papin's words justify the fact that Philippa keeps her talent hidden from the world, only because she has a greater purpose in heaven. Babette, the primary artist of the film, has within her being the talents of a great chef. Through the General, the viewer learns that she once was employed at one of the most celebrated restaurants in France. For fourteen years, she prepared simple meals of ale bread and fish for the two sisters. She like Philippa keeps her culinary talents hidden.
Just as Philippa sacrifices her desire to sing in Paris, Babette sacrifices her desire to return to France after winning the lottery. The years that she has served Martina and Philippa have created a home within her heart with the sisters. She expresses her passion for cooking to the sisters during one of the final scenes of the film. Following her great feast, Philippa tells Babette, that her talent will not end on earth. "In Paradise you will be the great artist that God meant you to be! Ah, how you will enchant the angels." She has no reason for returning all her reasons are "dead and buried." She denies herself the joy of creating delicious meals on earth, but like Philippa, she will one day entertain angels with her art.
Throughout the film, neither of the two women keeps her abilities hidden completely. Philippa shares her voice with Martina and the congregation, while Babette prepares the best ale bread and fish possible. The sacrifice comes with each individual knowing that they possess the abilities to perform at a much greater level, and choosing not to do so. These sacrifices create strength of character and portray great spiritual wisdom. They weave within the scenes of the film a motif that supports Matthew 6: 19-Each woman sacrifices earthly fulfillment in order to find final fulfillment in heaven.