point of the joke and its place in the film is that God normally works his providential will through natural means.
An instance of this providential work comes in Gardner's relationship with his job as the movie begins, as a salesman of bone density scanners. The credulous Gardner has invested his family's savings into purchasing a stock of these devices, which he can in turn sell to his exclusive market of San Fransisco area medical centers. In order to finance their living expenses for the duration of an unpaid internship (his entry into the stockbroking profession), Gardner must sell all of his remaining scanners.
At one point Chris Jr. and his father fancifully imagine that the scanner is a time machine, and Chris Sr. uses this as an opportunity to distract his son from their dire circumstances. They pretend that they have traveled back to prehistoric times and must seek refuge from the marauding dinosaurs. This imaginative playfulness belies the fact that they must spend the night in a subway station bathroom, one of the more touching scenes in the film.
But the scanner truly is a "time machine" in a metaphorical sense. When Gardner has finally sold the final machine, he describes it as an injection of "four more weeks" of oxygen. The sale of the machines, cashing in on their capital value, represents much needed time to complete the critically important internship at Dean Witter.
Absent from the movie are traditional hallmarks of liberal criticism of the market economy: Gardner's story is one that occurs within an America conceived as a meritocracy rather than one defined by racism or class struggle.
All of the rich white characters in the film, with one possible exception, treat Gardner with respect, fairness, and dignity, even compassion. And Gardner does in fact fight against poverty, but he does so within a context that ultimately rewards his hard work and intelligence. While there are striking images...