Lessons from Ebenezer Scrooge

Dec 16, 2016 | Thoughts

Ebenezer Scrooge. The name itself rings up memories of party-pooper or “negative Nancy” people who refuse or sarcastically get into the holiday spirit. The name and character come from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, written in 1843 and becoming an instant classic among us. Whether you have read the book, watched the Muppets, or even the latest live-animation rendition with Jim Carrey, the lessons are the same.

For those of you unfamiliar with the synopsis, here is a brief summary. Scrooge is a frugal yet successful businessman who has a sour take on life and the holidays. He is known by those around him as cold-hearted, stingy, and rather merciless. Giving his worker Bob Crachit a day off on Christmas day pains him. His nephew and friends make light of his character.  We see more evidence of Scrooge’s coldness in the look and feel of his office, attire, and house.

During the night he sees the spirit of his former partner, Marley, warning him of three spirits yet to come. The “ghost of Christmas past” reminds him of his former life as a happy and pleasant individual. We see how a great man became greedy over the years, giving up family/friends to pursue wealth. The “ghost of Christmas present” compares his current life with the lives of those around him. The stark contrast needs no explanation as he sees his nephew’s friends and their happiness at a dinner. He sees into the life of his assistant, Bob Crachit. He learns how the family struggles to make ends meet as they care for a sickly son (Tiny Tim) on a meager salary. The “ghost of Christmas to come” reveals what the future would look like if he was gone. We see more comfort than grief at his funeral. Tiny Tim has died, changing Christmas for the Crachits. His money his gone, leaving the portrayal of a bleak and grim future.

At the end of this one-night experience Scrooge wakes up physically and mentally. Unwilling to let this grim future come to pass, he immediately aims to right his wrongs. He increases Bob’s salary, sends them food for Christmas dinner, donates to a charity (which he earlier refused), and spends Christmas with his nephew. It is a heartwarming tale reminding us that our lives affect those around us. But we have the power to act and change for the better. Generosity benefits everyone, not just the recipients.

As a disclosure, we do not endorse the existence of ghosts as revealed in this tale, we reference this classic for illustrative purposes only.

While the ability to see into the lives of others during our time on Earth is rather impossible, Christians can take away a couple of lessons from Scrooge:

  1. Our lives affect others, for better or worse. Unless you live in complete isolation, your actions affect others in some way. While this may not always be evident, we must accept this reality and take care in what we do. Paul mentions this issue in 1 Corinthians 8, in summary indicating that we should take great care not to be a stumbling block to those around us as their faith may be shaken by our actions. While we may think we have the freedom to do certain things, abstaining for the sake of our fellow man for the sake of the gospel is always the safer course to take. Jesus tells in Matthew 5 that we should be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world. Not hidden in a bushel or kept in a salt shaker, we are to let our good deeds affect those around us so that they will praise God.
  2. We can see the “ghost of Christmas past/present/future.” Not literally, of course. But we can introspect/retrospect our lives and see if where we are today is where God wants us to be, spiritually speaking. Scrooge needed an external source to bring to light his journey to greed and its affect on others. The Bible/Holy Spirit serve that purpose. Jesus promised us that upon His departure He would send the “Holy Ghost” (there’s the ghost!) to comfort us and guide us into truth. It would serve as our conscience to distinguish right from wrong. The Bible serves to draw the line in that respect. The Holy Spirit complements that purpose. We take this resource for granted far too often. While we are connected to Heaven directly through Jesus, the other two members of the Godhead are not idly standing by. The Holy Spirit can awaken us to our surroundings. As the old tale Pilgrim’s Progress reveals, we are prone to falling, and veering off course. We may not travel in time through the night, but thank God we are not alone in this endeavor.
  3. We can change. The best part about A Christmas Carol is that Scrooge actively changes his ways once he discovers the effect of his actions. The Bible provides numerous examples of people changing their lives through God’s help (David, Samson, Moses, etc). Once we have been exposed to the truth, it is time to act. At times it will require a clean slate and a fresh start. Other times will require mending wrongs and making right. Regardless, while we cannot change the past, we are responsible for changing the future. Especially having come to a knowledge of the truth. Like Scrooge, we can become more caring and considerate people when we accept Jesus into our lives every day and take on His character. Once we see what Jesus has done for us, it becomes easier to be Jesus for others.

Time travelling looks pretty cool on the TV screen, but let us not forget to funnel what we know/have come to know into actions. Through the Gospel, we can not only tell others about the good news, but we can live it as well.

Do you want to live for Jesus and be Jesus to others today?

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