This December, for the first time ever, I read Charles Dickens’s book, A Christmas Carol (free on Kindle). Of course, I’ve heard the story, but my own eyes have never seen and experienced the rhythm with which Dickens wrote.
It reminded me that as much as we try to avoid it, we all have small bits of Scrooge within us.
Still, we must remember that God always stands at the window watching.
He’s watching for lost children to come home.
If you feel like your focus has been off this year; or you feel like your purpose has been wrong; if you feel like you’ve been racing against rats; if you feel like money has become your idol; if you feel like you’ve neglected the weightier matters for the least important, then God is standing at the window waiting and watching.
An opportunity for redemption and repentance is here.
The top of any list of financial villains is always the stingy and hard hearted Ebenezer Scrooge. Ebenezer exemplifies everything that is wrong with excessive greed and wealth. The second best known financial villain is the empty hearted Grinch. The life (if we could call it that ) of the Grinch was full of hatred, greed, and a general please-rain-on-my-party attitude. Our third, perhaps less known villain is Silas Marner. Marner is a miserable stench of a man who lives to count his gold. Huddled up in the warm corner of his cabin, Marner would count his coins obsessively. He cares only about hoarding, and he rarely opens his heart to anyone.
All three, so it seems, could be defined by a similar cluster of words – isolated, hard hearted, and miserable.
Yet, for all three, the Christmas season offered an opportunity for redemption.
Christmas can bring out the philosopher in each of us. It opens the door for reflection and reevaluation. Perhaps if we really let these financial villains teach us, we could avoid repeating their terrible errors.
With budging eyes and an eternal scowl, we like to hate this hideous creature. But, the Grinch himself was the attempt of Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) to deal with some of his own concerns about the Christmas holiday. Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker’s Dozen by the One and Only Dr. Seuss recorded Dr. Seuss saying:
“something had gone wrong with Christmas … or more likely with me. So I wrote the story … to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost”. It is no coincidence that Ted was fifty-three years old when he penned the Grinch’s complaint, “For Fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now! I MUST stop this Christmas from coming! … But HOW?”
I, too, am becoming a Grinch. Now only two-thirds of the age of Seuss/Grinch, I’ve got an early does of Christmas doubt. I wonder what this holiday is all about.
No, I’m not one to complain about the joy, the noise, the merriment, or even the roast beast. But one, just one thing bothers me the most – how we spend without caring the least.
No, I don’t want to stop Christmas from coming. But I do want Christmas to return. To return as a humble, simple, family affair. I want a Christmas that celebrates the gifts of life, not the gifts of money.
I want to experience the truth that it is more blessed to give than receive. You see, this, this very Christmas you might be lead astray. Some will make you think Christmas (and even love) will be shown by the gifts you give that day. So this year you may need to remember these words from the Grinch, for it is possible, quite possible that in them you start to remember a deeper meaning of Christmas.
Somehow or other, it came just the same! The stunning conclusion of the Grinch: “It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!” And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.” “Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”
Despised. Miserable. Alone. Wretched. Of course, we’ve all met the contemptible Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge cared only about money. As a reward, he had no joy or satisfaction at all in life. He despised the poor, mistreated his workers, and often he himself went without – just for the sake of a larger coffer.
And yes, of course, Ebenezer hated Christmas too – Bah! Humbug!
The ghost of Christmas past reminded Scrooge of a lifetime of rejection and loneliness – where money was put on a pedestal. The ghost of Christmas present showed Scrooge that those with less acted as if they had more. And, indeed it became apparent to this crotchety man that these Cratchits did indeed have something more than he. They had family and companionship. The ghost of Christmas future reveals the predictable ending to a useless life. Life finished for Scrooge just as it began – alone and isolated.
A Christmas Carol is about the man who had everything, but with the help of three ghosts he realized he had nothing. So Christmas, for Scrooge, marked an opportunity for redemption. And redemption he did seek. In his kindness and generosity, he felt something his tightfisted self never experienced – joy. Scrooge developed a giving heart.
Our final (and lesser known) financial villain is the miserly Silas Marner (Signet Classics). Marner was not a man of flash and pomp. He was a simple, tight fisted man who was cheap in every way. Angered by betrayal, he lived a lonely, isolated life in a country cottage.
His life reduced itself to the mere functions of weaving and hoarding, without any contemplation of an end towards which the functions tendered.
Marner existed for the next opportunity to count his growing collection of gold coins. Nothing else mattered. That is, until he was robbed. In an ironic twist, he lost his fortune and the little reason he had for life. On an evening, New Years night in fact, Silas found something in his dirty bungalow:
to his blurred vision, it seemed as if there were gold on the floor in front of the hearth. Gold! – his own gold – brought back to him as mysteriously as it had been taken away! He felt his heart begin to beat violently, and for a few moments he was unable to stretch out his hand and grasp the restored treasure.
But, the gold was not gold. It was still a treasure – a beautiful baby girl. It was in the presence of this girl – Eppie – that Marner found a treasure greater than his previous treasure. For with the arrival of Eppie came joy, happiness, and purpose.
6 Lessons from these Financial Villains
- Joy and stuff are not related. They are not even distant cousins. If you make stuff your goal, you may accumulate earthly possessions and, in return, lose out on some of the most important things of life.
- The riches of life are found in deep, meaningful relationships, especially our relationship with our Creator.
- God offers everyone, no matter how ghastly your history, an opportunity for redemption.
- You can have everything and have nothing at the same time.
- Christmas is a great time for redemption, reflection, and prioritizing.
- Life does have purpose. And no, it’s not money.
This post is an edited and republished version of an article I originally published in 2009.