Scrooge's Path to Freedom
The ransom of a man's life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat. (Proverbs 13:8)
After the stock market crash of 2008, there were a number of high-profile suicides by bankers, brokers, and other financiers. Consider the story of Steven Good, a multi-millionaire real-estate mogul, author, and attorney. On a Monday morning in January 2009, instead of driving to work Good headed to a secluded nature preserve outside his Chicago home. There, inside his red Jaguar, he shot himself. Though he was a father to three sons and admired as a pillar of the community, he couldn’t see a way forward with his life after the crash.
Somewhat paradoxically, the more material things we acquire, the more enslaved we can become to them. God says that “the ransom of a man’s life is his wealth” – that is, we can be held hostage by the very things that we thought we owned! Meanwhile, the poor man is free because he has no wealth to worry about. Obviously, poverty has many challenges, but wealth also brings its own kind of anxiety and even desperation.
This enslavement to wealth is famously illustrated in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge receives a haunting visit from the ghost of Jacob Marley, his former business partner. Having been dead for seven years, Marley appears to Scrooge as a chained, tormented figure:
″You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. …
“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”
It’s a chilling image – that with each day we can increase the bondage of our souls to wealth, building a chain for ourselves because of money (or any other addiction). Fortunately, Scrooge’s vision of Marley sets him on the path to repentance as his heart is gradually liberated from material wealth and set free for a life of generosity.
When Jesus came into the world, he did not glamorize poverty; in fact, he frequently fed, cured, and elevated the poor, and promoted the value of hard work. But he also constantly warned of the seductive, enslaving power of money. Far, far better, taught Jesus, to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21), which is a treasure that will never be taken away.
Today you might ask God to search your own heart. Is money a tool that I use to love my neighbor and my community, or is it something that has a compulsive hold on my heart? Do I sacrifice wealth for the kingdom of God, or sacrifice the kingdom of God for wealth? And how can I experience more of the freedom of generosity that Christ invites me into?
Father, thank you that I do not need to held hostage by any earthly thing. Pry open any bondage that money has upon my heart, and fill me with the joy and freedom of giving instead. In Christ’s Name, Amen.