It’s a Wonderful Life: Seven Lessons to Share with the Next Generation

14 Dec

It’s a Wonderful Life: Seven Lessons to Share with the Next Generation

Have you ever watched the Christmas Classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

I can see you shaking your head at me, “Carl, it’s been called one of the 100 best American films and is one of the most acclaimed films ever made, who hasn’t seen it?”

But, please listen to the question again, I’m asking, have you ever “WATCHED” the movie?

At the risk of getting run out of town on a rail, (Yes, this line was used by mean Mr. Potter) please allow me to share a few thoughts.

Most of you know that what we’re trying to accomplish here at Reasons for Hope* is to critically evaluate what we see in the world around us and use it to teach biblical truth.

So, let me encourage you to sit with your children or grandchildren and use this Christmas classic as a teaching tool. You don’t have to take advantage of all seven teaching moments.  Pick 2-3 that you consider important and age appropriate and show them how we must filter what we watch through God’s Word. So, grab some popcorn and let the show begin.

Please keep in mind there are positive messages as well as some messages that you may find not so positive.  But hey, that’s real life!

Lesson 1: The consequences of being greedy and self-serving.

Mr. Potter is brilliantly played by the famous actor Lionel Barrymore.  (You’ve probably heard of his niece, Drew Barrymore of “E.T.” fame.)  Mr. Barrymore played the role so well that he is ranked number 6 in the 50 Greatest Villain’s in American Film History.  He gives a great portrayal of what greed and selfishness will lead to.  This absolutely gives you the opportunity to talk about how actions have consequences and that we are called to live a life of service.  We should place others above ourselves and not be self-serving.  (Hebrews 6:10, Galatians 5:13)

Lesson 2: The importance of family and friends.

Contrast Mr. Potter’s existence with George Bailey’s.  Few films do a better job of showing how important family and friends are.  George, who lived a life of service, in the end is rescued by those his sacrifices had impacted.  What a great opportunity to talk about how Christ lived a perfect life, yet was met with rejection which ultimately led to His sacrifice on a cross, for our sins!  Just because we live a “good” life doesn’t mean we will be accepted! (Isaiah 53:3-5, John 15:19)

Lesson 3: The Dangers of Alcohol.

How do we deal with the fact George’s uncle, Billy, is an alcoholic and no one seems to try and help.  It’s just accepted.  And even George himself gets a bit tipsy on more than one occasion.  Do we talk with our children about the dangers of alcohol?  (See: “Is it a Sin to Drink Alcohol?”)

Lesson 4: Child Abuse is Never Acceptable Behavior

How about Mr. Gower, the druggist slapping young George until his ear bleeds.  To be totally honest with you I get extremely angry whenever I see this clip.  Where’s George’s father when he hears about what the drunk Mr. Gower did to his son?  Just writing this my blood pressure is going up.  If someone did that to my son or grandson, I hate to think how I’d respond.  Have you spoken with your child or grandchild about what proper discipline looks like?  (Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 12:11)



In this 4 minutes of film I believe we can see the whole ball of wax where the Gospel is concerned, as unintended as it may be. Let’s take another look. Mr. Gower is lost in his condition and pours out his grief and anger against an innocent George Bailey. Here is a man sinning in his lost condition and when George reveals to him his error, he repents and is forgiven. As a matter of fact, George points out that Mr. Gower didn’t know what he was doing (Luke 23:34). Carl, you asked, “Where’s George’s father when he hears about what the drunk Mr. Gower did to his son?” I submit to you that George’s father never hears (which the angels confirm in the next scene, they say, George “Never tells a soul.”) Mr. Gower and George embrace. During this time of total forgiveness George clearly swears a blood-oath he will never tell. (“I’ll never tell anyone … hope to die I won’t.”) (Psalm 103:12)
A better question might be why young Mary is hanging out, for over an hour, by herself, in a soda shop; and why, after witnessing the assault, she doesn’t run and tell someone. That, too, is a lesson we need to teach our kids about.

CK – I agree John.  Parents, are you teaching your children to speak with you if they see something like this happen?  Or, are you teaching them no matter how sorry someone may be, if they do something inappropriate to you they need to speak with you!

Lesson 5: Racism is Never Acceptable Behavior

How about the way that African-American’s are depicted in the movie?  There’s a great Christmas conversation to have with our children, right?  Hmmm, not sure we want to go there either.  Have you spoken with your children or grandchildren about the fact that there is only one race, the human race and that racism isn’t acceptable?  (Consider watching the DVD: “Racism: What is the Biblical Answer?”)

Lesson 6: Disrespecting a Parent is Never Acceptable Behavior.

Consider the following dialogue:

Mrs. Hatch: Who is down there with you, Mary?
Mary: It’s George Bailey, mother.
Mrs. Hatch: George Bailey? What does he want?
Mary: I don’t know! [to George.] What do you want?
George Bailey: Me? Nothing! I just came in to get warm, is all.
Mary: He’s making violent love to me, mother!

Ummm, let’s move on, right!  Sorry, we have to speak with our children about sex.  God makes it very clear that sex is between a man and a woman in the bounds of marriage.  (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:3, Hebrews 13:14)  Know this, if you’re not teaching your child about sex, the world is and the message they are teaching sure contradicts what the Word of God has to say.

Lesson 7: What is God Really Like?

Do we really want to talk about God being depicted as a cluster of stars in the very beginning?  Then having another cluster of stars named Joseph having to deliver the prayers that George needs help?  What’s that all about?  You’re telling me that God can’t hear the prayers directly, He needs someone to deliver the message to Him?  What does that say about His Character?  God doesn’t need messengers telling Him what’s happening on earth or any other place, He’s omniscient.  (Isaiah 46:9-10, Matthew 10:29-30, 1 John 3:20)

Please hear me, I’m not trying to destroy a Christmas classic for anybody.  The point we’re trying to make is that it’s important we’re careful with what our children and grandchildren watch.  For some strange reason we think that things were better in the “good ole’ days,” back before there was internet and all the craziness that we see on TV and movies today.

Well, that’s just not the case.  It’s been crazy ever since Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden.  This world is Satan’s realm for now and he is busy.  We praise God that He is going to come again and when He does, what a truly wonderful life it will be.

Parents and Grandparents, use whatever opportunities you are given to teach this next generation how to apply their faith in the real world.

Please pray for us!  We’ve decided 2017 is the year of “Making Parents the Hero’s to Their Children.”  Everything that we’re doing next year is with the focus of helping parents/leaders to have meaningful conversations with this next generation.  Even when watching a classic Christmas movie!  Blessings and . . .

Stay Bold!


P.S.  – By the way, if you catch something that we should address when you watch it, let us know.  We’ll share with folks and add it to the study.  Thanks again, just shoot your feedback to




George: I’ve just misplaced $8000, I can’t find it anywhere.
Potter: You’ve misplaced $8000?
George and Mr. Potter knew it wasn’t George that was to blame. This exchange may often go unnoticed at first viewing, but here is another opportunity to see forgiveness to the point of self-sacrifice; a George Bailey trait from youth to adult. Yeah, I know he said somebody was going to jail and it wasn’t going to be him. But he clearly changed his mind. He took the blame. Very Christ-like.
CK – Great point John.  I had not caught the, “You’ve misplaced $8,000.00″ comment before.  That’s a definite depiction of self-sacrifice.
Carl Kerby

Carl Kerby is an inspiring, motivating and highly respected Christian speaker. With more than 20 years of ministry experience, Carl shares his extensive knowledge and understanding of God’s creation in his presentations, outreach events, books and other resources as the President and founding board member of Reasons for Hope, Inc.

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