Friday, December 30, 2005

Fun with Dick and Jane

"You shall not steal." Exodus 20:15

Dick and Jane Harper are trying to live the American dream: Work hard, make money, live well. Fun with Dick and Jane reminds us that dreams are not reality.

Dick Harper (played by Jim Carrey) begins this film working hard, following the rules, and climbing slowly (but eventually successfully) up the corporate ladder at Globodyne, a consolidation company of media properties that's about to burst. After following all those rules, Dick is "rewarded" with taking the fall for the CEO (Alec Baldwin) and having his stocks, his finances, and his career plummet with the fall of Globodyne.

The premise of the film is that, after all their assets have been sold off for food and all their utilities shut off, Dick and Jane (played by Tea Leoni) resort to a life of crime to make ends meet. They figure that "playing the rules" and being honest got them poor; perhaps "breaking the rules" and being dishonest will get them some cash again.

As a couple, they resort to Bonnie-and-Clyde antics of stealing from coffee shops, banks, and people's homes. At first, it's for survival, but after they find how profitable this is, they make it their new career and become quite successful at it. Eventaully, the thrill of stealing overwhelms them.

What finally wins the day is taking the high road, and focusing on something other than whether Dick and Jane should or shouldn't steal. Instead, Dick and Jane's life really take off when they GIVE money away (in a pension plan to their former colleagues) rather than worrying about not stealing it.

Fun with Dick and Jane isn't just about not stealing; it about being generous with what we've been given.

When we focus on the commandment of "You shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15), we often forget the opposite command - the one Jesus gave us so eloquently in the New Testament: "When someone asks for your shirt, give him your coat as well" (Matt. 5:40). What Jesus tells us is that stealing may be wrong, but what is more wrong is not being generous.

By making generosity our primary focus, the idea of stealing won't even be an option. When we give, we rely less on taking. So the next time we feel tempted to steal (in big or small ways), perhaps we should more often be reflecting on why we aren't being more generous with what we've been given in life rather than about the ramifications of thievery.

Then and only then can Dick and Jane have real fun.

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