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A WONDERFUL LIFE
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, December 24, 2000
"It is not good that the man should be alone"
"It’s a Wonderful Life" stars Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel
Barrymore, Beulah Bondi, and Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy. It was directed by Frank Capra,
and it is America’s favorite Christmas movie. I am sure everyone here has seen
it on television at some time or other. I don’t like most Hollywood movies,
but this one is harmless on television, better than most syndicated programs, I
think. If you’re going to watch TV, which is better, "Roseanne" or
this old movie? The answer is obvious.
Made back in 1946, it did not do well in theaters. I think the reason for
this is because it is essentially about the great depression. That’s when the
story takes place. The themes which grabbed people’s hearts when they were so
poor no longer had much appeal after World War II. We just couldn’t relate to
George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. It was no longer a depression era.
Everyone was making money and succeeding by 1946. "It’s a Wonderful
Life" was about the past – a past people wanted to forget about.
But this movie came into its own on television. I have seen all or part of
it more than fifteen times. I saw it flickering on a TV screen at the hospital
when my mother was dying at Christmas time in 1997. It became America’s
favorite Christmas movie in the 1950s, 60s and seventies, and continues to be
watched on national television by millions to this day.
We no longer see it as an outdated depression movie. Instead, we now view it
as a period piece, a picture of what America once was, with its simpler
life-style, in a small town atmosphere. We now see it with nostalgia and a
longing for the old-fashioned way of life it portrays in our day of high
technology and modern living.
"It’s a Wonderful Life" is a wonderful movie. It is not perfect,
of course, but it does faithfully show us the simple life that Americans once
lived. And in some sense you could call it a "Christian" movie. Oh, it
doesn’t preach the Gospel and some of its themes don’t give us the complete
Bible picture, as perhaps they should. But it does give us a
"Christian" view of life in, I think, at least three ways.
I. The story shows us that money isn’t what makes life worth
"Take no thought for your life (don’t be too concerned about it),
what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what
ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat (or food), and the body
than raiment (clothing)?" (Matthew 6:25).
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and
all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).
The villain in the movie is old Mr. Potter, played to the hilt by that
master actor Lionel Barrymore, in one of his finest roles. Old Mr. Potter is the
villain simply because he loves money more than anything – more than people,
more than God, more than life itself. He is a greedy old man who wants to own
everything. The Bible says, "The love of money is the root of all
evil" (I Timothy 6:10). It does not say, as many people misquote it,
"money is the root of all evil." No, it does not say that. Instead, it
says, "The love of money is the root of all evil." When a man
loves money the way Mr. Potter does, it is evil and it brings ruin and sin.
I always find myself feeling sorry for old Potter. He has no real friends
and, apparently, no family – and certainly no church. He is alone,
all alone with his possessions. What a sad and pitiful old fool he really is. He’s
a modern-day Scrooge who never wakes up as Scrooge did, in Dickens’ A
No doubt Potter wakes up in Hell, as the rich man did in Jesus’ story,
recorded in Luke 16, and as the rich fool did in Luke 12.
"He said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build
greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods… But God
said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee:
then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided (and saved
and worked for. Who’ll get them then, when you die?)" (Luke
And then Jesus said,
"So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich
toward God" (Luke 12:21).
Those are sobering thoughts which the Mr. Potters of this world never
seriously think about until it’s too late. Mr. Potter ended his life all
alone. How sad.
Young person, don’t live your life just for money or pleasure. Make sure
that you live your life for God, so you won’t wind up alone like this old
miser some day. Be in church every Sunday and live for God. That’s the only
way to live!
II. Then, secondly, the movie shows us that being with people and
them deeply is what really
counts in life.
Our text says, "It is not good that the man should be alone"
(Genesis 2:18). It is good to be with people and to love them. That’s what
George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) found out. With his family hugging him around the
Christmas tree, at the end of the movie, we have the message of a wonderful
The Bible says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life,
because we love the brethren" (I John 3:14).
The Bible teaches that God created three institutions for man’s welfare
and happiness: the home, the government, and the church. In our day, we see all
three of these institutions breaking down. We don’t trust the government or
respect the president anymore. The home either doesn’t exist or is
nonfunctional. And the church has been abandoned by millions.
But we pay a terrible price, especially for losing our connection to each
other through the church.
I was reading an article in Prevention magazine a few days ago. Prevention
is the magazine that tells you how to prevent disease and maintain good health.
They had a cover story titled "The Number One Best Thing You Can Do for
Your Health." Do you know what it is? No, it’s not diet or
exercise! Here’s what psychiatrists and sociologists tell us is the number
one, most important, thing you could do to be healthy and live a long life. They
Modern technology may make life seem easier, but it also makes it
shorter. Science says that people who have a lot of human contact can
live twice as long as those who are isolated
2000, p. 122).
Studies show that the fewer human connections we have…the more likely
we are to get sick, flood our brains with anxiety-causing chemicals, and
die prematurely (ibid.).
Connectedness (with other people) is as much a protective factor –
probably more – than lowering your blood pressure, losing weight,
quitting smoking, or wearing your seat belt (ibid.).
Now, here is what these psychiatrists and sociologists say is a big part of
the answer: regular church attendance.
Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School,
said this in the Prevention article:
Even if you don’t have a lot of faith…just sitting in church… for
an hour a week is good for you. There are…studies now that show that
people who do that live longer (ibid., pp. 126-127).
That’s what I’ve been saying to you for years – it’s good for you to
be in church! In many ways, it’s good for you! Come home – to church –
III. Then, thirdly, there is this lesson from "It’s a
Wonderful Life" – the
movie tells us that there
is an unseen world, another dimension,
where God and angels and
Now, I don’t think "Clarence the Angel" in the movie portrays what the Bible teaches about
angels. It is a distortion of the Biblical picture. But I do know that the
Bible tells us that each of us has a guardian angel in Hebrews 1:13-14 and
elsewhere in the Scriptures.
We have become so materialistic in this period of history that we no longer
think of the spiritual world all around us.
"It’s a Wonderful Life" understands the positive and the
negative aspects of life and of the spiritual dimension. It’s almost
Manichaean in its depiction of good and evil, light and darkness, Satan and God.
And that’s one of the things that rings true, that makes the movie believable,
because there are good and evil forces at work all around us. Little children
intuitively know that there is a spiritual dimension, both good and evil. You
might call it "The Twilight Zone" on the evil side, or "Touched
by an Angel" on God’s side. Yes, I believe there is a Devil and demons
– and Hell. Yes, I believe in Hell. But I also believe that there are guardian
angels, and God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and Heaven. Yes, I believe in
"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things
which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).
And you must cultivate a knowledge of the spiritual dimension by prayer and
Scripture reading and church attendance and conversion. Otherwise you will come
to look at life as hopeless and meaningless, like the druggist in "It’s a
Wonderful Life," or like the people in Potterville – in George Bailey’s
dream. We’ve simply got to have God in our lives. Without God, there’s no
meaning and no hope for the future.
And we must have Christ, the only begotten Son of God. That’s what
Christmas is all about. God sent Jesus, His Son, into the world. Theologians
call this "the incarnation." It means that Jesus, the Second Person of
the Holy Trinity, was covered with flesh. Charles Wesley, in his great Christmas
carol, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," said this:
Veiled in flesh the God-head see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.
("Hark! the Herald
God sent Jesus Christ into the world primarily to die so our sins could be
atoned for – vicariously, through His payment for sin on the Cross. Our sins
can be washed away by His Blood. And Christ has risen from the dead. He is alive
in Heaven at the right hand of God. You can come to Jesus Christ and He will
pardon you, and save you, and give you a wonderful life.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting
life" (John 3:16).
Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "I’d Rather Have Jesus"
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
THE OUTLINE OF
A WONDERFUL LIFE
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
"It is not good that the man should be alone"
Money isn’t what makes life worth living, Matthew 6:25, 33; I
Timothy 6:10; Luke 12:18-21.
Being with people, especially in church, is what really counts in
life, Genesis 2:18; I John 3:14.
There is an unseen world, another dimension, where God, and angels,
and Christ live, Hebrews 1:13-14; II Corinthians 4:18; John 3:16.