The power of greed. That’s what I’ve been pondering after watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the second time in theatres.
Peter Jackson shares backstory of the Hobbit via an artful prologue, in which we’re introduced to Thror, grandfather of Thorin Oakenshield. Thror ruled a thriving dwarf kingdom located in a city called Erebor located beneath the Lonely Mountain. Under his reign the dwarves mined and smelted unfathomable quantities of gold became rich beyond imagining.
Over time, the power of greed crept into Erebor. It’s described as a chilling sickness of the heart that slowly consumed the dwarfish King Thror. Over time the power of greed eclipsed all his sound reason, wisdom, and compassion. He is shown taking midnight walks to revel in the ridiculous mounds of gold and treasure he’s amassed for himself deep in the halls of Erebor.
During this time, Smaug learned of the staggering treasure under the mountain and arrived to take it for himself. Unable to stop the fire-breathing hellion from deposing their people, the dwarfs are slaughtered. The remaining stragglers are forced to flee for their lives. In a day, the proud dwarfish kingdom is laid to ruin and the dwarves become the homeless wanderers of Middle Earth. Smaug claims Erebor as his lair, lounging on the gold and falling asleep like a dog curls up on his bed by the fire.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey begins with Thorin, grandson of Thror, collecting a swarthy band of loyal dwarves to join him in re-taking Erebor and their legendary fortune there.
If The Lord of the Rings is about the power of temptation, The Hobbit is about the power of greed.
The Power of Greed
The power of greed is real, and anyone can fall under it’s glittering spell. When we give in to greed, we serve an it, a proud spirit whom Jesus Christ calls Mammon.
Tolkien’s tale takes a similar stand. The dragon Smaug symbolizes what happens when we give in to greed. Erebor fell long before Smaug arrived in the flesh; in many ways, Thror become a dragon himself when he embraced the power of greed. Inevitably, the day came when a real dragon deposed the figurative one.
This is how it works in real life. When you become a dragon in your heart, you welcome a real one to rule in your life. We reap what we sow, and then we sow what we’ve reaped—more and more greed, as the power of greed multiplies.
Deposing the power of Greed
The tragedy in Tolkien’s Hobbit (book spoiler here) is that Thorin, grandson of Thror, is also infected by the power of greed over time. He becomes a figurative dragon in hopes of deposing Smaug—and perishes for it.
“Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” Jesus says, “Where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Or where dragons like Mammon take up residence. Don’t do it.
“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” instead, he advises (Matthew 6:18-20). Why? Your heart is always tied to your treasure. If your heart belongs to Jesus, if it’s set on true riches in heavenly glory, then Jesus—not Smaug or Mammon—will sit on the throne in your heart and give you life to the full.
And how do we store up treasures in heaven? By serving Jesus Christ, by putting him on the throne. By letting the character of his kingdom flow through our lives instead of the power of greed. And what is the character of his kingdom? The polar opposite of greed: Generosity. We depose the dragon and break the spell by giving earthly treasures away.
C.S. Lewis also explores the power of greed by “dragoning” and “undragoning” Eustace in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
There is only one way to know whether or not you’ve become a dragon: Try to give away your gold. If you find giving difficult, it’s happening. If you can’t give away your gold, the transformation is complete. Either way, the dragon test is also the dragon cure, as the rich young ruler also found out when Jesus challenged him. Put Jesus on the throne by giving away your gold.
Food for thought.
How have you seen the power of greed in the world around you? How do you deal with it in your own life?
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