Wednesday, March 22, 2017

George Bailey Christians

It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie. You've probably seen this popular holiday classic and know George Bailey is its hero. The trouble is, he doesn't know it for most of the movie.

You see, George spends most of his life hoping to get out of his small hometown of Bedford Falls and as he tells his father, "do something big and something important." Unfortunately, life keeps throwing George curve balls. His father dies and he doesn't go to college so he can run his father's Building and Loan, a business needed in Bedford Falls so people don't have to live in the slums of rich Mr. Potter. He gives his college money to his brother Harry, waiting for Harry to come back and take over the Building and Loan. Instead, Harry gets married and his wife's father offers him a job, a good one George knows his brother should take. Then George gets married, misses out on his honeymoon to save the Building and Loan, and ends up even more tied to "this crummy little town." Finally, after all this, and a world war he can't fight in because he has a health issue, his world comes crashing down when he is accused of embezzling from the Building and Loan by a devious Mr. Potter.

George has experienced some good times, but from his point of view, life's been mostly bad. He's failed at everything he wanted to do. He hasn't done anything big or important. His life is one disappointment after another. At his wit's end, he decides to kill himself.

If you've seen the movie, you know our hero is in for a surprise. Clarence shows up, an angel who wants to help George see the value of his life. When George says it would have been better if he hadn't been born, Clarence gives him the gift of seeing what life would have been like without him.

It isn't pretty. Turns out George had more influence in the lives of people around him than he knew. His younger brother died at the age of 9 because George wasn't there to save him from drowning. This means the men Harry saved as a pilot in World War II died as well. Mr. Gower the pharmacist ended up a prisoner and broken man when George didn't stop him from putting poison in a medicine bottle. His mother is old and bitter, her son and husband long dead. Mr. Martini, Ernie, and countless others live in slums because the building and loan closed up when George's father died. Mr. Potter has turned the town into a cesspool.

It's here that Clarence utters one of my favorite lines: "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" George has left a hole. He never understood how every person he met was affected by him, how a life in a little town actually did matter.

Clarence's conclusion is "You see, George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?"

In America, in much of the Western World, there is a focus on doing something "big and important." We have the mind of George Bailey. We laud those who seem to do the big things, who get famous and noticed. Then we compare ourselves and well, we don't measure up. Our life is so...small.

Christians fall into this trap. They imagine something big they will do for God--be a missionary, start a humanitarian organization, build orphanages in a needy place, bring hundreds of people to Christ, lead a church. They feel guilty when someone tells them if they really lived a Christian life, they'd do something big for God, they'd follow the dreams "God has given them."

Here's the problem--most Christians are George Bailey. Life has played out for them in unexpected ways. They're stuck by circumstances. What they thought would happen didn't. They aren't a hero; they're just an "ordinary yokel."

If you believe this, you believe a lie. You are a George Bailey, Christian, but you aren't an "ordinary yokel." You are George because "your life touches so many others." Your life has done something "big and important" even if it doesn't look that way to the world. Every day you live, every day you cling to Christ, every moment you do an act of kindness, you have done something important.

In the end of It's a Wonderful Life, George is saved by his friends who recognize all he has done for them. His brother Harry gives a toast "to my big brother George: The richest man in town." It's no coincidence Harry calls George his "big" brother. It means more than age; it means George is actually as big as he wanted to be. In fact, he's rich, because he has used his life to touch the people around him. He's given of himself, his time, and his heart. He did it in a "crummy little town" and his friends couldn't be more grateful.

Christian, you may think your life is nothing. You may see what others do and think because of how your life has worked out, you've done nothing. This is not true. Your life has touched so many. If you were to leave, a gaping hole would remain behind. Never believe the lie your life is a throwaway. Your purpose from God is wherever you are. Forget the shouts of big and let God use you now.

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