Lessons I’ve Learned from “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Wes  —  December 13, 2012
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One of my all-time-favorite movies is It’s A Wonderful Life; especially at this time of year. I don’t suppose I have ever finished watching it without wiping some “moisture” from eye. I guess I love it because it teaches so many important lessons.

Though I realize, It’s A Wonderful Life is not a perfect movie. Nor do I agree with all of the theological implications about angels, prayer, and such. But I do think these are a few “wonderful” lessons that can be gleaned from this fun holiday movie:

1. Selflessness Leads to Real Success

The most important aspect of the movie is that George Bailey never got what he wanted (wealth, world travel, designing monumental structures, etc.). He spent his life sacrificing for his family and his community; but in the end he learned that such selflessness is a key ingredient to real success.

Jesus taught His disciples the same thing, “But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave (Matthew 20:25-27).

The only way to be great, is to make yourself nothing.

2. Everyone Makes an Impact

It is not only the men and women we read about in the history books, who have influenced the world in which we live today. Every single person, who has ever walked this earth, has impacted, influenced, and affected history. Just as George Bailey discovered, had you “never been born at all,” the world would be a much different place.

So, the question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we using our influence for selfish ends or are we using our influence to bring glory to God?” The Apostle Paul was elated that his life served the purpose of furthering of the gospel. He knew that his teaching, his suffering, and even his death would help to bring glory to God and bring the lost to Christ.

Paul wrote about his imprisonment, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).

The world is different because you have been here…is it better?

3. Bad Guys Sometimes Win…For Awhile

In many movies, the final scene shows the bad guy being led away in handcuffs. It makes us feel good, knowing that justice has been served. Not so in, It’s A Wonderful Life.

One might expect Mr. Potter to get his comeuppance, but it never comes. When the movie ends, one can certainly picture Potter sitting alone in his office, with Bailey’s $8,000 tucked away in a drawer somewhere. But, it is very much like real life; isn’t it?

We don’t always see people come to justice. We don’t always see the bad guy fall. But, their time is coming. If they don’t change their ways, they will eventually “meet their doom.”

The lesson for us is to stop worrying about it. Just as the movie portrays, we need to focus on living our life. Stop worrying about the “warped, frustrated, old [men]” of this world and just be the men and women we need to be.

Paul wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head'” (Romans 12:18-20).

I love how George Bailey runs past Potter’s window and yells, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!” and that’s the last scene in which we see him. Try doing that to those who have done you wrong. Wish them well, do whatever you can to make the relationship right, and then stop worrying about them.

Hope this is an encouragement to you whether you like, It’s A Wonderful Life, or not.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams