The Man In The Bottle

After umpteen years, I’m still hopelessly attracted to the 1960s-era TV show, The Twilight Zone.  So of course I couldn’t resist the 24-hour marathon that ran last weekend.

Lots of really good episodes on that show.  Pithy and unforgettable.  They showcased cheapie nobodies who became big bucks mega stars (Robert Redford, William Shatner, Jack Klugman… and all the rest.)  But one sort of forgettable episode, with fairly forgettable actors, really grabbed me.  It’s called The Man in the Bottle.

It’s about a poor but honest and kind pawnbroker named Arthur who was up to his ears in debt.  Still, out of the goodness of his heart, he gave a hungry old woman $1 for an obviously worthless old bottle, only to discover that it contained… you guessed it… a magic genie who… you guessed it… granted him three wishes. 

Now, Arthur might have been honest and kind, but he was none too bright.  He wasted his first wish on fixing a broken pane of glass.  The genie, who quickly saw what he was dealing with, warned Arthur to be careful what he wished for because every wish had its consequences.  So Arthur made what he considered a safe wish—a million dollars (which was real money in the ’60s).  Then, generous as he was, he proceeded to give money away to everyone who needed it… which was everyone!  Unfortunately, he hadn’t counted on the government coming by for their share.  Poor Arthur ended up with only $5.  And his mountain of debts, of course.

So Arthur, thinking of all the good he could do if he were king of the world, wished to be leader of a major country who could not be voted out of office.  (Arthur, Arthur! What were you thinking?)  He ended up as Adoph Hitler at the end of World War II.

The reason this show grabbed me was because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about unintended consequences:  Contributing scarce dollars from the heart rather than the head.  Voting against rather than for.  Making choices based on TV sound bites or clever videos instead of taking the time and effort to search out the facts.  Lawmakers holding a country hostage in order to make a point.

I don’t want to be Arthur.  Please, let’s not any of us be like him.

“A human being fashions his consequences as surely as he fashions his goods or his dwelling. Nothing that he says, thinks or does is without consequences.

Norman Cousins



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6 responses to “The Man In The Bottle

  1. Jeanette

    This really spoke to me today. I’m definitely in a place where I need to be careful what I wish for!

    Have a blessed day.

    Love, Jeanette

  2. Thank you for reminding us of this story and being careful what we wish (and even pray) for. Giving can also be a problem if you do not research and place your hard earned money where it will do the most good.

    • How right you are about the giving, Hazel! In fact, I wrote a book on that very topic… including how to evaluate. It’s called “Harvest of Hope” and is published by InterVarsity Press.

  3. Eric

    We watched the marathon too! There were quite a few lessons to be learned from those old episodes.

  4. So true. I miss good television.

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