It’s one of the most beloved movies of all time. But I wonder how many people miss the gospel message in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
I love the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” My family watches it every Christmas. I sometimes think about how much fun it would be to visit Bedford Falls, and meet all those delightful characters—even Old Man Potter.
My friend and long-time BreakPoint colleague, Anne Morse, recently did just that: well, almost. She visited Seneca Falls, New York, which, legend has it, is the town on which Frank Capra based his fictional Bedford Falls. It really does look amazingly like Bedford Falls, and every December the town holds an “It’s a Wonderful Life” festival. Festival-goers can’t resist running down the street yelling “Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!”—just like Jimmy Stewart did. They can also chat with “Uncle Billy,” “Old Man Potter,” and other characters.
My friend Anne Morse is so fond of the film that she wrote a sequel to it, titled “Bedford Falls: The Story Continues,” in which she imagines what happened to the Bailey family after the Christmas of 1945. Anne also wrote a wonderful piece about her experiences in the “real” Bedford Falls for The Christian Post—and about the gospel message the film contains that many viewers miss.
As Anne puts it, “It’s a Wonderful Life” “is a magnificent cinematic depiction of the words of Jesus: ‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:26)
In the New Testament, the devil tempts Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, if he will only bow down and worship him. In the movie, Anne writes, “We see a similar scenario: The tempter, in the form of Henry Potter, offers George Bailey everything he has ever wanted: travel to Europe, lots of money . . . and a far more interesting job than he has at the Building and Loan.”
George is tempted. But he ultimately realizes what Potter is really asking him to do: sacrifice the Building and Loan, which means sacrificing his neighbors to Potter’s greed. And so he turns him down, calling Potter “nothing but a scurvy little spider.”
But just as Satan continues to tempt Christ, Potter continues to tempt George Bailey.
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