During this Christmas season, do any of you plan to watch one of the screen versions of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol?
In both the book and the screen versions, there is a scene that reveals a prevailing view of the times. In this scene, two men come to miser Ebenezer Scrooge’s office, seeking donations to purchase food and clothing for “the poor and destitute.”
Scrooge questions the two men, “Are there no debtors prisons or union workhouses? The Poor Law and the Treadmill are both still in full vigor, I presume?”
Now, these were either measures of punishment for those who could not pay their debts or hopelessly inadequate means of providing relief to the poor during Victorian times.
The two gentlemen explain that many of the people they wish to help cannot go to these “establishments.” They also say that “many would rather die” than be forced to do so.
To this Scrooge utters a very cold-hearted response—one that will come to haunt him later in the story. He says, “If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”
Too Many People
The surplus population? What in the world does that mean? At the time the “surplus population” consisted of the unemployed masses which were crowding the streets of London in the wake of the Industrial Age. They were those who, in the words of Thomas Malthus, “had no right of claim to the smallest portion of food” that nature allots to humanity. In other words, humanity already had too many mouths to feed. There were simply too many people and not enough work and food to go around. “War, famine and pestilence were necessary in order to keep the population down, especially the poor people.”
A Christmas Carol was written in 1843. Thomas Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population was first written in 1798. Evidently our chronic concerns over there being too many people and too little food are nothing new. Well-informed people have been predicting worldwide starvation for centuries. Perhaps the most infamous example was Stanford University professor, Paul Ehrlich’s book, The Population Bomb in 1968. Dr. Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions would be starving by the mid to late 1970s.
Yet it never happened. Unforeseen by Ehrlich and so many others is that humanity has an advocate in heaven. God has always managed to raise up people, movements, organizations, and nations to come to the aid of mankind. For example, Ehrlich’s predictions didn’t factor in the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution, which saved billions of lives from starvation. Borlaug developed a series of mold-, disease-, and drought-resistance grains that saved the populations of Mexico, India, and Pakistan.
God always seems to be raising up people to avert worldwide disasters. Historians on the Cold War marvel at the number of nuclear close calls that were averted by low-level military officers (e.g. Vasili Arkhipov during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Stanislav Petrov during the 1983 ballistic missile false alarm). Nuclear disasters have been averted by U.S. Presidents as well (e.g. Harry Truman during the Korean War and John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis). In fact, in an interview following the publication of his biography on President John Adams, historian David McCullough made this statement. He said, “America has always had the President it needed for the time or crisis it was facing.” Perhaps God is raising up the leaders we need.
You know, people that predict the doom of the world (by starvation, pandemics, asteroid or comet impacts, global warming, environmental disasters, etc.) will always abound. They’ll make millions of dollars troubling the hearts of concerned and hard-working people.
But there are plenty of reasons for trusting God to always care for the world He created—especially for those He created in His own image. Jesus told us that if our heavenly Father cares for the smallest of birds and plants, He will certainly care for us (Matt. 6:25–34).
There are millions of reasons for giving thanks to God. We can thank Him for raising up the right men and women who have benefitted humanity. Think of all the people whom God has gifted to develop the technologies and medical miracles that benefit us all. Think of the cars we drive and the roads we travel. Or think about the power grids that power our houses and the public utilities that provide heat and water to our homes. These were all made possible by the converging of numerous technologies which all seem to have arrived at the right time.
For example, the convergence of oil exploration, steel refinement, electrical generators, and vulcanized rubber all seems to have been orchestrated by a higher power to make automobiles possible. Yes, Someone loving and all-powerful is watching over us. We’d do well giving more attention to what He has to say in His word, the Bible, than to all the doomsday prophets in our media.
Dear Father in heaven, thank You that You are continually active in our world, caring for its creatures and raising up people, organizations, and nations to save us from destruction. Help me, dear Father, to count Your many blessings and always give You thanks. Help me to focus on all the things in my life and in the world that are functional and working. And help me to pay less attention to the few things that are broke. Help me, O God, to be a blessing and a part of the solution to life’s problems as well. Amen.
Information from: https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-does-scrooge-men-by-letting-them-decrease-128393