Every year during the Christmas season our family likes to watch the old Christmas classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life,””Miracle on 34th Street” and “The Bishop’s Wife.“ In “The Bishop’s Wife” the well-meaning but misguided bishop, Henry, dreams of constructing a monumental cathedral. He is obsessed with his dream and the movie begins as he prays for help. That’s when Dudley makes his appearance. He’s the angel that’s been sent to answer the bishop’s prayer. Obviously the bishop has a wife (hence the name of the movie) and her name is Julia. She plays a vital role in the film.
Though at first we believe that the bishop’s goal is admirable, we soon discover that Henry is so busy trying to raise contributions from his wealthy parishioners to fund his building scheme that he has forgotten what is truly important. We look at his life through his wife Julia’s eyes and come to realize that though his intentions seem righteous, he has in fact missed the mark. In his quest for glory and fame—albeit in the name of honoring the Savior—he has neglected those he is professing to help—his friends, former parishioners and mostly, his family.
With the help of the angel Dudley we come to see that Henry is in danger of losing everything that is most important in his life. He seeks temporal glory as the builder of the massive cathedral while neglecting eternally important relationships.
What’s my point? Do we sometimes find ourselves stuck in the same rut as the bishop? In our pursuit of material possessions that will bring us fame and glory—or at the very least extreme comfort and pleasure—do we neglect what matters most? Do we put the same effort into building our relationships with our spouse and our children and other family members as we do in gathering “things”? Do we treat our neighbor as ourself? How do we treat our co-workers? What about our fellow man–the sick and afflicted, the poor and the imprisoned?
Obviously, we need to work and provide for our needs and those of our family, but how much do we need? Have our wants masqueraded as needs and taken over our lives and our pocketbooks? How much is enough? We might be making the same mistake as Henry as we rationalize our behavior which has the appearance of righteous motivation. When we have enough, it’s time to share. Let’s not make Henry’s mistake and spend our lives in pursuit of earthly treasure. After all, as Luke reminds us,
“one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Let’s turn our focus away from ourselves and look to those who truly need what we have to give.
This is an article by Carolyn Johnston – Co-Author of the new book Power Spending: Getting More For Less