We saw an excellent production of A Christmas Carol last night, and a penny dropped for me. When people do Bible studies or preach sermons about wealth, it is common to mention that there are many kinds of wealth: education, status, health, good training or genes, special abilities in athletics, art or music, beauty, charisma, people who love us, stability. I have reflected on these and myself in that NT sense over the years.
But never about Scrooge. In that work it is all about business, money, miserliness. "Business?" Marley wails "Mankind was my business!" Dickens had daddy issues with his businessman father and was making a personal as well as social statement, but I think this work, whether novel, play, or movie, always focuses on the money. Other idols that we might worship vanish like spirits in the story. There is no real harm in that from an artistic point of view. Refining an expression in a single, clean form is to be praised. Yet it is not the deepest spiritual lesson, but only something that points to deeper lessons. We have to do the other steps ourselves.
So I wondered, watching Ebenezer writhe in pain like a butterfly on a pin, whether I am really that much better off, just because that particular idol of his is not mine. We know others who have neglected mankind for art or status or comfort or entertainment. Why not us?
I have touched on a related topic before in understanding Talmudic thinking. I was impressed with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks essay about wealth, and the conclusion that these things are only understood in conversation with each other. For me, the lessons of the Ghost of Christmas Past were of course most
powerful painful, because I saw other gods at every turn there.
You will see the movie or a production or read the book this year. You should let the Ghosts talk to you.