Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lessons from Bilbo Baggens on the Big Screen

During the Christmas season, I enjoyed the movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with our son-in-law and grandson.  At a time when movies introduce us to incredible fictional characters like Batman, Captain America, and Iron Man; and, historical giants like Lincoln, it is easy for me to dismiss the significance of “an ordinary life.”   However, in this first of three movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I was challenged by the significance of just such an ordinary life through the character Bilbo Baggins.

Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit.  Tolkien describes these little fictional characters as “just rustic English people, made small in size because it reflects the generally small reach of their imagination.”  I wonder if Tolkien was thinking of Moses’ account in the Old Testament Book of Numbers when twelve exceptional leaders, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, were assigned to spy out the land of Canaan.  If you are familiar with the account, all of the spies except two, Joshua and Caleb, concurred with the report which stated “we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight (Numbers 13:33)."

If the Hobbits were “made small” because of limited imagination, perhaps in a similar way, the Israelites were “made small” because the image of God was too small in their imagination.  Not long after a miraculous deliverance from the Egyptians by the parting of the Red Sea, God had given the Israelites the go-ahead to enter the land of Canaan backed up with the promise based on His character and His Word which stated: "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours (Deuteronomy 11:24).”   The Israelites present a clear example of how our exploits for God may be stunted or prevented by a small imagination and a unbelief in His Word.
How many times has my accomplishment for God been stunted or denied by my inability or unwillingness to see and imagine God’s power and wisdom through eyes of faith?   Therefore, I immediately related to the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, a very ordinary life compared to the wizards and dwarves in the story.  Gandalf the wizard asks Bilbo to travel with dwarf leader, Thorin, and a band of dwarves to Lonely Mountain to reclaim the treasure belonging to the dwarves and now under the control of Smaug the great dragon.   Bilbo’s role is to serve as the company’s burglar.

As Bilbo and company encounter numerous dangers, Bilbo remains physically a small Hobbit, but he gradually grows in courage and resourcefulness, eventually earning the respect and confidence of Thorin.  Through Bilbo, I learned that great accomplishments are possible when my faith is exercised.

Near the end of the movie, Bilbo Baggins challenged me in another way.  When Bilbo was asked why he had exercised a courage that had helped to save his comrades, he says something like this:   "Well, I like my home; I like my comfortable chair, and I was content.   But now I realize that you, my friends, have no home.  Your homes have been taken from you!  Therefore, it is only right that I help you to reclaim your homes."

Like Bilbo, the ordinary Hobbit, I have often been satisfied to be an ordinary person enjoying a comfortable, unambitious life.  But then, I remember that I belong to a band of humans who are also wandering orphans, deprived of a rightful home as intended by our King, the Creator of the universe.  But we have now been purchased by His blood.  For He came to Earth as Emmanuel, God with us; and, His obedience and ultimate death on a cross for our sin brought victory over the enemy who stole into the King's creation and brought corruption and waste.  Now, we have a home assured for us in Heaven, but having been enlisted in the King’s army, our mission is based on submission to His authority so that we can see clearly those all around us who have no home, whose homes have been taken from them so that they are wanderers on the Earth.

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. 
                                                – Hebrews 11: 13, 16

For consider your calling, brethren,
that there were not many wise according to the flesh,
not many mighty, not many noble;
but God has chosen the foolish things of the world
to shame the wise,
and God has chosen the weak things of the world
to shame the things which are strong,
and the base things of the world
and the despised God has chosen,
the things that are not, so that He may nullify
the things that are,
so that no man may boast before God. 
I Corinthians 1: 26-29 NASB

May God help us to recognize ourselves as aliens in a kingdom of “homeless people.”  Then, may we submit to the King’s authority and power, and then, enlist in His mission to seek and to save the lost, so that the homeless may gain an eternal home while there is time.

Web Links:
The Hobbit – Concept and Vocabulary Analysis (source of artwork used above, by David Wenzel)