Lessons from A Christmas Carol
I love holiday entertainment. I love to watch Christmas specials on TV. I love Christmas music — even when it’s nowhere near Christmas. And I feel that A Christmas Story is one of the best films ever made (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”).
This year, I decided to do something different. I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I have seen several versions of the movie, with Bill Murray’s Scrooged being my favorite. It’s old now but it is really hilarious.
The movies are great, but I wanted to experience the book. I wanted to experience Charles Dickens’ work. The book is always better, right? Of course, my time reading A Christmas Carol was well spent. I came away from this book with four important insights:
Invest in Relationships. Some of the most touching scenes in A Christmas Carol were from the Ghost of Christmas Future. The spirit showed Scrooge scenes from his death. Scrooge was really saddened by the fact that no one cared for him once he died. There was no tenderness or affection for him. The world seemed largely unaffected by his death. Scrooge seemed deeply affected by the fact that no one mourned his passing. His life seemed to count for very little.
There is joy in giving. Scrooge spent his lifetime amassing wealth. He was cheap and stingy. Before his encounter with the three ghosts Scrooge didn’t even want to use coal to keep his office warm. He hardly spent money on himself. He certainly didn’t spend money on others. When asked to give money to the poor, Scrooge nearly kicks the solicitors out of his office. After visiting with the three ghosts, Scrooge is much more generous, and he feels the joy that comes from helping someone else.
Money can’t buy happiness. When we struggle financially we often believe that if we only had more money we’d be happy. The truth is that money and happiness have nothing to do with each other. Too often, celebrities with lots of money commit suicide. Every year we hear about celebrities in rehab for substance abuse. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge was wealthy but miserable. His nephew was poor but happy. Money does not ensure happiness. Nor does poverty ensure misery. Relationships and purpose make our lives rich, even when we have little money.
There are eternal consequences for how we treat people on Earth. Jacob Marley wore a heavy chain in the afterlife because he loved money more than people. He warned Scrooge that his chain would be just as long, if not longer. Marley adjured Scrooge to change his ways. This was part of a fictional story, but the idea is very biblical. Luke 16:19-13 tells the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Lazarus sat at the rich man’s gate begging and the rich man took no notice of him. When both men died, the rich man went to Hades and the poor man was carried to Abraham’s bosom. Likewise, when Jesus judges the nations, he rewards or punished people based on how they treat others (Matthew 25:31-40).
A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, but it offers timeless truths to those with an open heart. This tale chronicles the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. As we prepare for Christmas, may we remember the lessons found in A Christmas Carol and carry them all year long. As we do this, we may find ourselves transformed as well.