When the classic Dickens story A Christmas Carol begins, we meet Ebenezer Scrooge. This wealthy miser is caustic, complaining, horrendously greedy . . . and profoundly unhappy. (His life illustrates how the word miser is connected with miserable.)
Scrooge’s loyal, joyful nephew says of his stingy uncle, “His offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him. . . . Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself, always.”
After a radical transformation from his three visions, Scrooge walks through the streets of London freely distributing his wealth to the needy. He’s giddy with delight. Grace will do that to you! (Second Corinthians 8–9, the longest biblical passage on giving, is full of references to grace.)
This man who only one day earlier scoffed at the idea of charity now takes his greatest pleasure in giving. The most miserable human being you could imagine suddenly erupts with joy.
Had Ebenezer Scrooge decided to give away money only out of a guilt-driven sense of obligation, he wouldn’t have been full of gladness. The story’s greatness is in the inseparability of his newfound generosity and his happiness.
What caused Scrooge’s joy-filled transformation? Gaining an eternal perspective. Through supernatural intervention, he was allowed to see his past, present, and still-changeable future through the eyes of eternity. (Let’s ask God for the same insight!)
On the story’s final page, Dickens says of Scrooge, “Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them. . . . His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. . . . And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”
Like Scrooge, as long as we live on Earth, we’re still in the land of second chances. As long as we’re here, we’re each still writing our life’s story. No one knows how the final chapter will end until it’s ended.
At our deaths, the appraisal can and will finally be made. What have we done with our lives? Have we invested them in eternity? Have we carved into the minds of our families and our church and our community a burning image of the Lord Jesus Christ? Or have we poured our lives down the rat holes of prideful ambition, irresponsibility, godlessness, materialism or empty religion?
2 Peter 3 tells us this world and everything in it is going to burn. There’s a coming holocaust of things. Revelation 18 speaks of the economic world system of materialism, called “Babylon the Great.” If that’s what you’re investing your life in, then go ahead and be depressed. You’ve got a lot to be depressed about!
Our denial of this obvious reality is striking. I once walked by a store displaying one line of silverware called “Eternal Gold” and another “Eternal Silver.” (They weren’t referring to 1 Corinthians 3:12-14). Another time, I saw a magazine advertisement in which a woman stared at a diamond and asked, “What else will be mine for the next thousand years?”
When I was a pastor, a couple came to my office and told me they wanted to be able to give more money to the church and to missions. “But we’ve always had this dream for a beautiful home in the country,” they added, “and we can’t seem to shake it. Is that wrong?”
No, it isn’t. In fact, the dream of a perfect home is from God. It’s just that such a dream cannot and will not be fulfilled in this life. Our dream house is coming; we don’t have to build it here. In fact, we can’t. Any dream house we try building here will eventually be ravaged by time, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, carpenter ants, or freeway by-passes. And who would want to divert kingdom funds to a dream house on Earth if you understand it’s going to burn to the ground, with no insurance company left to cover the loss?
Does that sound depressing? It shouldn’t. What would be depressing is if we couldn’t use our present lives and resources to make a difference for eternity. But we can! What would be depressing is if this world was our home. But it isn’t! We get to use our resources to send building materials ahead to the Carpenter building our dream house in Heaven!
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
Until the day when the ink dries on the manuscript of your life—which could be today or next week or next year or decades from now—what must you do to write the best ending to your story?
In the time you have left on the old earth, how will you edit your own obituary as it will be viewed from the New Earth?
God’s Spirit can give us the same life-changing eternal perspective the three Christmas spirits gave Scrooge. We can learn the vital importance of giving while we’re still living. He has given His Word and His indwelling Holy Spirit to teach and guide us, and to liberate us to experience the real life that pours itself out in generous giving.
“God bless us, every one!”See Randy's book Giving Is the Good Life and more resources on money and giving.
Photo by Nadi Lindsay