Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2010
Scripture: Genesis 39:4-6; 2 Kings 4, 5, 8:1-6; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; John 13:1-17; 1 Timothy 6:10.
When Charles Dickens penned “The Christmas Carol” little did he know that the reading of this story would become a Christmas tradition for many. Today it’s one of the best-selling Christmas books of all time, while its theme has been adapted in numerous movies and plays. When the book was first published in the United Kingdom in 1843, it got off to an excellent start. In the first week over 6,000 books were sold—a sizeable number for that time. Considering the book’s plot, it’s interesting to note that the only reason Dickens wrote it was to pay off a personal debt.1
Although many of us have heard the story for years, there are moral and social aspects that may have gone unnoticed:2
True Humanity: Charles Dickens was Unitarian. In his day, Unitarian Christianity was not really focused on traditional theology, but rather on morality and ethics. He once wrote in a letter, “I have always striven in my writings to express the veneration for the life and lessons of our Savior….” He believed that Jesus was the example of a life that was godly and loving, and that His life taught us what it is to be human. In fact, Jesus could have asked Ebenezer Scrooge the question asked in Luke 9:25: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” Scrooge desired the wealth of the world, and in the process of trying to grasp it, became a greedy, stingy and miserable man who ignored the plight of others. His story teaches us that we need to be more concerned about the “quality” of our lives, rather than the “quantity” of what we own.
Generosity of Spirit: Throughout “The Christmas Carol” the examples of generosity focus on the spirit in which things are given. Scrooge’s nephew Fred is quoted as saying that Christmas is, “the only time…when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely….” From the schoolmaster offering food to a young Scrooge, to Mr. and Mrs. Fezzywig opening their home for a simple yet merry celebration, to Fred offering comfort to Bob Cratchit in a future that thankfully does not come to pass, generosity is prevalent. And it’s generosity that finally touches Scrooge’s cold heart. The generosity of being given a second chance.
Social Justice: In the beginning of the book, we find Scrooge a selfish, self-centered, penny-pinching man. But Dickens was trying to get his readers to see more than the plight of this skinflint. Scrooge’s treatment of the poor and needy was symbolic of the way humankind was ignoring, abusing, and capitalizing on its most unfortunate members. This is why Scrooge objected to charitable donations and dismissed the poor as merely “surplus population.”
So it is more than a Christmas story. Dickens was on a mission. A mission to teach the reader to realize what’s most important in life; to give with a generous spirit; to see the needy as real people in need; and in every way to be like Jesus.
Gehazi would have done well to have followed the lesson of Luke 9:25 that was taught even in Old Testament times: it doesn’t profit a man to gain the world, and in the process lose his soul. In the end, selfishness and greed are killers.
Like Scrooge, Gehazi wanted monetary gain. He was willing to lie to get it, and lie again to keep it. When he was angry that Elisha wouldn’t accept pay from Naaman for his healing, Gehazi decided to go and get a few things for himself. So he found Naaman, who was heading home, and lied to him. Gehazi told him that Elisha had visitors and wanted to give them silver and clothing. In good faith, Naaman believed him and gave him what he asked for. After Gehazi hid the goods, Elisha approached him, inquiring where he’d been. Gehazi lied again, saying he’d gone nowhere. But the prophet already knew, and Gehazi was instantly punished with leprosy—the same disease for which Naaman had come for healing.
So Gehazi turned out to be a selfish servant who couldn’t be trusted. As servants of Jesus, there is no room for greed or selfishness. We need to reflect Him in all we do. And what better time to do this than the time of year when we celebrate His birth?