This past Saturday evening we watched the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” produced and directed by Frank Capra, in its entirety. I had not watched it since I was a child. I always remembered it was truly a beautiful film but I did not comprehend at the time the message and meaning of the film.
This movie is a social commentary on the both the positive and negative of capitalism. On the one hand we have the Bailey’s who run a for profit business that supports the community and cares for its people. On the other we have Mr. Potter the contemptible corrupt character of the movie whose sole purpose is profit and does not care a moment for those less unfortunate than he.
The difference between the two men is clear. No, it is not the economic environment they are working. In fact it is obvious that from the movie the capitalist system when put to good, works for the people of Bedford Falls. Bailey Building and Loan is in the forefront of the success and better way of living for many of the residents such as Mr. Martini an Italian immigrant. Mr. Martini successfully works his way out of the slums, owned and operated by Potter, with the support of the Building and Loan, which is intimated by Mr. and Mrs. Bailey helping him move to his new home.
Mr. Potter on the flipside is envious of every positive event that favors the Building and Loan. Not because they are successful but because they are generous. It is their kindness and charity which he abhors. He looks for every possibility to put them out of business even offering George Bailey a hefty salary and world travel to entice him to leave the organization. But he didn’t take the bait. It wouldn’t be until Potter’s opportunistic theft of a deposit that belonged to the Bailey Bank and Loan that he almost succeeds. This theft almost drove the business into bankruptcy.
But here is the interesting part. Just when George Bailey is about to commit suicide so his family can collect on his life insurance policy the Good Lord speaks to him through an angel. Clarence pointed out to George through his special gifts where real beauty and riches lay. George repents of his foolishness and runs home realizing he was hundreds of times wealthier for the love of his family. Then his patrons and friends from throughout the years come out to support him and beat the evil Mr. Potter’s scheme.
All the time George had been in a fight as we all are. He was in a fight with the Devil personified by Potter. A crueler self-centered and evil demon cannot walk the earth. And when failing to destroy from without he turns his guile towards the private temptation of George Bailey. He tempts him by offering him his wishes and dreams as if there would be no consequence. But George who is a sound moral Christian man sees the offer for what it is; eternal damnation. For surely his soul and his whole being would have been destroyed under the yoke of the evil that is Potter.
This is certainly one of the most beautiful movies ever made for the Christmas season. It speaks of the most important commandment that the baby Jesus arrived on this earth to share with us. “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40)
The fictional character George Bailey was set before us a Christ like character for our times. He sacrificed his whole life for others, losing his hearing on saving his brother’s life, being beaten when standing up to the error of his superior, and sacrificing his dreams to run the business that he knew the community needed. He did not know all the people but they came to know and love him. This is because when asking Christ in his heart who is my neighbor, he knew the answer and always answered the call for help just like the Good Samaritan.
Any system will not work when it is run by immoral and malevolent men. This means if we are to ever live in peace on this earth we must instill charity and love in the hearts of all people. Only in this way will there ever be equity among all people for the fruits of their labor.
For this movie alone I pray that Mr. Frank Capra is enjoying the riches of heaven. I pray more that people in this world open their minds to the teachings of this film which in the end are derived from the words and teachings our Lord Jesus Christ that will lead to love and peace that can be shared on this earth.