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    The Spiritual Lessons Of Gollum

    April 27, 2024
    1 Comment

    “So bright… so beautiful… ah, Precious.” The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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    The Lord of the Rings is a work of art everyone should experience in written and film forms. However, I must confess to a particular dislike of the character of Gollum. At times, he elicits laughter; at others, he simultaneously stirs disdain, disgust, and pity. Yet, this is precisely the point. Gollum is a character we are meant to both despise and pity, a testament to the complexity of his nature and how accurately it reflects hard truths about each of us.

    For those who have never read the book or viewed the movies, Gollum is a character who, after initially finding the evil-indwelt magical ring of power when he was a simple fisherman, was grotesquely distorted by that same evil. The longer he was exposed, the more pronounced and visible his struggle. He learned to hate the ring while also loving it. He would pursue it without ceasing and even kill those who dared stand in the way of his owning it. This is a stark reminder of the importance of recognizing and resisting the daily allure of evil in our own lives.

    Before, After

    No one could resist the ring's power, and it could only be destroyed at its source, the fires of Mount Doom. Similarly, we cannot overcome sin alone, and we must turn to the source of life who paid the price for our sins.

    If our internal battles between good and evil were magnified and turned into movie characters, we, too, might appear unbalanced, even wholly unhinged. In his unique way, Gollum embodies the profound impact of prolonged exposure to evil. Even if his intentions were good, the consistent exposure to evil eventually caused his conscience to be seared, and he could barely recognize good and act on it. If we're honest, we often find ourselves wrestling with the same allure despite our best efforts to resist. The Apostle Paul articulated this struggle in the Book of Romans:

    15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15-20)

    Thus, through the character of Gollum, Tolkien offers a mirror to our own spiritual battles and provides a critical understanding of the world around us.

    1. The power of evil is often overpowering, and the longer people are exposed to it, the more it manifests in their being and behaviors. I have often seen this in Hollywood, where an actor or actress is recruited young, and their behavior and physical persona change over time.

    2. People who advocate for strong family values and then fall prey to the sins of pornography, adultery, or other sins of this category often fight the hardest against those sins because they are the most powerful in their lives. They fight pornography because they know how powerful it can be. Are they hypocrites because they fall prey to temptation? Yes, but the same is true for all of us. We can judge the sins of others, but we must remember that our sins, though possibly different, have the same ultimate consequence if not laid at the foot of the cross.

    3. You will never achieve permanent respite from evil and sin in your life until you see God in heaven. Continuing to sin despite your best efforts does not mean you are not saved. It means you are still human. Think of it from the lessons of Gollum. Frodo Baggins had to carry the ring of power to Mount Doom. He paid a heavy price and did not rest until the ring was destroyed. Frodo never fully succumbed to its power but was never relieved of its temptation until the end. Gollum was eventually entirely consumed by the ring's power and fell into the fire instead – we might call this the permanent judgment of sin if we have not accepted Christ into our lives.

    The Lord of the Rings contains many spiritual lessons. A book would be required to expand this article to include the lessons we learn from Gandalf, Gimli, the Elves, Orcs, Goblins, and Balrogs. Ironically, Gollum is profoundly complicated yet simple. I love The Lord of the Rings because this series, like The Chronicles of Narnia, was produced in Hollywood and shared the message of the Bible without knowing it.

    I figured out why I love, hate, pity, despise, and laugh at Gollum. His struggle is the same as mine. Fortunately, the trek to the foot of the cross is much shorter than the trek to the fires of Mount Doom.

    “Do you know why a ship floats and a stone cannot? Because the stone sees only downward. The darkness of the water is vast and irresistible. The ship feels the darkness as well, striving moment by moment to master her and pull her under. But the ship has a secret. For unlike the stone, her gaze is not downward but up. Fixed upon the light that guides her, whispering of grander things than darkness ever knew.” – Finrod (LOTR)


    “Choose not the path of fear, but that of faith.” -Galadriel (LOTR)


    “Only in the Blessed Realm can that which is broken in you be healed.” -Elrond (LOTR)

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    2 Samuel 14:14 “We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain and outcast.”

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    Darin Gaub

    Lt Col (ret), US Army, Darin Gaub is a Co-founder of Restore Liberty, an international military strategist, foreign policy analyst, executive leadership coach, ordained Bible minister, and serves on the boards of multiple volunteer national and state level organizations. The views presented are those of the author and do not represent the views of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, or its components. He can be contacted at [email protected]
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