The Hobbit

hobbit 1

Our son and daughter-in-law treated us to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Since we liked The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we readily joined them and enjoyed a highly entertaining movie. No I won’t spoil it for you by giving the plot away, nor will I write about the cosmic struggle between good and evil. Neither will I dwell on the excellent special effects and computer animation in 3D. I will restrict myself to several underlying noble themes, which set this film apart from many of the dark heroes flooding the market.

First, loyalty, honor, and willingness. Assuming you have read the book or watched the movie, what criteria did the dwarf king Thorin use to choose his comrades to reclaim his homeland? He told Gandalf the wizard, “I would take each and every one of these dwarfs over the mightiest army. Loyalty, honor, a willing heart. I can ask no more than that.” Unfortunately for us that’s not how most churches choose their leaders. Often we look at appearance, ability, and achievements, and forget about the inner qualities that make a servant of God a good leader. No wonder so many churches are in a mess.

And why did Gandalf choose Bilbo, the hero of the story to accompany the dwarfs in this epic journey? He tells Galadriel the elf queen, “Saruman (another wizard) thinks that evil can only be defeated by great power. That’s not what I’ve found. I found it’s the small things, the everyday deeds of ordinary folks, that keeps the darkness at bay.” Bilbo was an unlikely hero. He was not strong, somewhat like a gardener, too weak to survive in the wild, as Thorin had thought. But he was willing to help, to be an instrument of righteousness. This reminds me of 1 Co 1:27-29 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. Alas, do we see things the same way? Are we enamored by the worldly-wise, the strong, the elite, the experts? Are we blowing our own trumpets, boasting how good we are? When will we ever learn?

Second, dignity and purpose. Why did Bilbo, who was comfortable in his home, who did not want an adventure, choose to join the dwarfs in their quest to reclaim their kingdom? I think it has to do with his sense of dignity and purpose. At first he rejected the dwarfs’ invitation, but after he “slept on it”, he saw that they had left and his hobbit hole was back to “normal”. Gone too, however, was the chance of a life-time to be part of something bigger than himself. He realized that he was called to a higher purpose. There is something beyond his need for a peaceful existence that beckons him on, and he leaped at the opportunity to pursue his dreams. But why, after he narrowly escaped death in the goblins’ cave, and had a chance to go home, did he choose to rejoin the dwarfs? For the same reason. He had a home to return to, but not the dwarfs, whose home had been usurped by the dragon. His sense of honor drove him to help them reclaim something he already enjoyed – a homeland.

In a way, many of us are like Bilbo. We are comfortable where we are, even though that may not be fully satisfying, and do not want to venture out of our comfort zone, because to do so would be too risky. We do not want to rock the boat, because that would involve sacrifice. But Christians have been called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). We are called to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). When will we heed God’s call and fulfill our duty, our mission? We are already saved, but do we have the honor, the loyalty, and the willing heart to fight for others so they can enjoy what we already have? Or are we contented just doing our little bible studies and singing our praises while ignoring His commands?

Third, the courage to take risks and the humility to admit our wrongs and reconciling with those we once despised. Thorin had a very low opinion of Bilbo, thinking that he was not up to the job of being their “burglar”, and will desert them given half a chance. Nor did he keep that opinion to himself, openly criticizing Bilbo on several occasions. Bilbo tended to agree, as he felt like a fish out of water in their company. Repeatedly the group was captured, first by the trolls, then the goblins, only to be saved by Gandalf who arrived in the nick of time. The tide finally turned when the dwarfs were cornered by the orcs, who overpowered them and was about to decapitate the dwarf king. Bilbo risked his life to protect Thorin by throwing himself against the executioner, and finally won his respect. Thorin reiterated how initially he had looked down upon Bilbo, then admitted “Was I ever wrong!” in front of all his followers.

Courage is not to be unafraid. It is to do the right thing in the face of danger and fear. Bilbo was not powerful, he was in fact fearful, but he risked his life to save the dwarfs. That takes courage. Unfortunately many today choose to do the politically correct thing, the expedient. Instead of standing up to the bully, many choose to be silent or walk away. Some even ingratiate themselves with the “strong” so that they are in his good favor. That is actually cowardice. It also takes a humbleness of heart to admit you’re wrong and ask for forgiveness, especially when you’re in a position of authority. Thorin had that attitude in addition to bravery, that’s why his subordinates were willing to follow him. Sad to say, many leaders today are proud and will never admit their mistakes, even though they know they’re wrong. Or maybe they’re so blind-sided that they think they’re never wrong. I hope we have that humbleness to repent before it’s too late.

There are other leadership themes, but that would suffice for now. Hope parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy are just as good.

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