These movie discussions are intended to help you connect your Christian faith to the modern world by:
1. Helping you learn to see echoes of redemptive truth all around you.
2. Challenging you to help other Christians see that their relationship with Jesus cannot be confined to church but must invade our every activity…even our movie-watching.
3. Equipping you to speak Christ into culture by pointing out entry points for significant discussions with non-believers. Many non-believers won’t accept an invitation to come to church, but they will talk about a movie they’ve seen recently…so we want to help you turn that conversation into an eternally significant discussion.
J.R.R. Tolkien is a master storyteller whose epic adventures tap deep into Christian themes, if you but take a moment to look for them. As The Desolation of Smaug is but a part of a whole, I won’t focus on the larger story as a whole, but on various vignettes found within this particular segment of the story, as we delve deeper into ways The Hobbit connects with both life and faith.
WE LOST OUR PATH
As Bilbo and the dwarves are travelling through a dense forest the path becomes unclear and they lose their way. The trees are so tall and dense they cannot see beyond to gain perspective. The sun is hidden, the mountain in the distance obscured, the path lost… They are lost.
Bilbo realizes the only answer is to go UP. He climbs up the trees so that he can get above their present view and see beyond. Once he’s above, he sees the way. The view is clear as the mountain looms ahead, beckoning them onward. Once Bilbo has been above it all, he is able to go back down and lead the others faithfully through the confusion of the forest. He knows the way and is no longer lost.
It’s such a simple principle, but one that I need constant reminding of. So often we are just like Bilbo and the Dwarves. We have a goal in mind, but life gets complicated and confusing sometimes and we get lost in the trees of our circumstances. Present events get so big and thick that we lose sight of where we are going and can’t find the path. We lose our way.
When that happens, we do just as the dwarves did. We complain about being lost. We despair. We complain. We don’t see the only real solution—we must go UP. We must spend time with God the Father who sits in heaven, who is above all our circumstances, who knows the way. When we let him lift us up into the heavenly realms, we see beyond the forest, beyond circumstances and events and all we deem to be possible into the realm of what HE deems possible. When that happens, He refreshes our vision of where we are headed, and shows us the way to get there, things become so clear again, and full of possibilities. With our new perspective, we are able to do as Bilbo did. We return to our circumstances and help lead others to the right path, out of the present forest and onward to the goal.
The key to it all is going UP.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Questions for Discussion:
- What is your “forest”? What are the circumstances that you feel lost in?
- What is your goal? The distant mountain you want to climb?
- How do you think you could go UP like Bilbo did, to see beyond your circumstances?
- Has there ever been a time when you felt lost, but God helped lift you up so you could see the goal and find your way again?
WE’VE BEEN BLIND
Gandalf tells his friend and fellow wizard, Ratagast, “We’ve been blind, Ratagast. And in our blindness, the enemy…is preparing for war.” They hadn’t seen it coming. They weren’t aware that the enemy was alive and well, and not too far away. Not only were they blind to their enemy, but the enemy was taking full advantage of their blindness. In it, he was amassing an army and preparing for war. By the time the wizards were aware of his presence, they were grossly unprepared and outnumbered.
I wonder if we aren’t much like Gandalf and Ratagast, blind to the enemy. Now, I know there are those out there who are constantly crying wolf, feeling that the enemy is behind every perceived negative and hiccup to their lives… and their warnings ring stale. Closely related, there are others who constantly criticize the church for being behind the times and naïve. Their criticisms ring bitter. On the other hand are those who don’t see any cause for concern and recognize no real threat from any real enemy. Their happy cluelessness is that very blindness Gandalf talked about, which gives the enemy great opportunity to prepare for war.
It’s tough to find a balance between those two extremes. Jesus put it this way, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We don’t want to be bitter or jaded. We don’t want to always see evil under every rock and around every corner. We don’t want to give the enemy more credit than he’s due. And we don’t want to exhaust everyone with false alarms. Innocence will help protect us from those extremes. However, we also don’t want to be caught with our pants down, so to speak. We don’t want to suddenly realize that in our naivety we were surrounded and outnumbered. We want to be wise and prepared. We don’t want to give the enemy any foothold, and we want to be able to give sound, meaningful warnings that carry weight with those around us. To do so requires the wisdom of serpents.
Jesus wasn’t being extreme when he warned us that we would sheep among wolves. He was stating the facts. We are surrounded by wolves. The real issue at hand is how do we live amongst them. As I said before though, I question if, especially in America, we don’t tend a little too far on the side of “innocence” (OK, read “ignorance”). I wonder if someday we will find ourselves saying as Gandalf did, “We’ve been blind… And in our blindness, the enemy…is preparing for war.”
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
Questions for Discussion:
- Which extreme do you think you lean towards more? Constantly worried about the enemy, or unaware of his presence?
- How do you feel about people on either extreme?
- Why do you think some people fall more to one extreme or the other?
- What are the dangers and pitfalls of either extreme?
- How can you live more with the balance Jesus mentioned, the “wisdom of serpents” and “innocence of doves”?
- Do you believe we have an enemy? What do you know about him? How active do you think he is?
MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS
The prophecy said that a keyhole would be revealed by the last light of Durin’s day, opening a secret door the dwarves needed if they were to get back into their old mountain home undetected by the dragon. They worked feverishly and journeyed far to reach the designated spot by the last light of this particular day which only came once a year. They waited with great hope and anticipation, fully trusting the prophecy, fully expecting the keyhole to reveal itself… and…nothing. Nothing happened.
Such bitter disappointment. Their hopes diminished with fading light of day into utter obscurity and the darkness of despair. They had been fooled. Their trust in the prophecy was misplaced. They had come all this way, fought all those battles, all for nothing. And they all turned and left. All but one that is, the Hobbit, Bilbo.
Bilbo stood there, puzzled and perplexed. His response was different from the dwarves. He wasn’t so quick to jump to conclusions. Rather than assuming the prophecy failed, he chose to still hope for the best, to trust it and give it the benefit of the doubt. With that attitude, he reviewed the prophecy, reconsidered it, wondered if maybe the error wasn’t in the prophecy, but possibly in their understanding of it. Where the dwarves were quick to place blame on others (or other things), Bilbo was quick to reexamine himself, his expectations, his understanding.
As he sat there, reconsidering, waiting, still hoping, the moon came out, and with that, the real last light of Durin’s day, the keyhole was revealed—just as the prophecy foretold. The dwarves, long gone back down the mountain, would have missed it had it not been for Bilbo. What’s the real difference between Bilbo and the dwarves? Faith, maybe? Bilbo chose to trust the prophecy even though it appeared the prophecy had failed. Or possibly it’s humility? Bilbo was humble enough to trust more in the prophecy than in his own understanding, so that when it didn’t go as foretold, he immediately questioned his understanding, not the prophecy. Or maybe faith and humility are just two sides of the same coin.
However you choose to see it, we have all been there at some point or another. We were promised something and put our hope in it, and then it failed us somehow. Maybe it was some fail-proof investment, or a pastor, friend, parent or spouse. Or maybe it was God. I want to distinguish something important here: there is a big difference between something truly failing us, and having false expectations. The only thing that can (and will) never fail us is God and His word. When we feel that God has failed us, the problem is our expectations or our understanding, not God. But man has felt disappointment in God for all of time, for the very same reason the dwarves felt disappointed in the prophecy—they trusted in their own understanding and made some false assumptions. The prophecy was not to blame. The prophecy was true.
We need look no further than the Christmas story (appropriate since the Hobbit was released at Christmastime) to see how mankind did the same with Jesus. They came to the baby Jesus expecting him to be king. Well, that was the right idea, but their understanding of when and how He would be king was misguided. He would be king of their hearts, and king eternal. They would have simply had him be king of the moment. They wanted him to overthrow the present government; he wanted to defeat sin, corruption and death for ever more. The prophecies were all true, but mankind understood them not, and in that misunderstanding, many were disappointed. Many walked away in pain and confusion just like the dwarves did. Only a few had the humility and the faith to wait, to rethink, to reconsider their assumptions and to trust that the problems lie with them, not the prophecies and promises of God.
We are faced with the same choices today. Do we trust in the character, the nature, the promises and prophecies of God? What happens when the “last light of the day” fades, and no “key hole” appears? God says he’s provider, but you’re bank account is overdrawn. He says your faith can move a mountain, yet the mountain remains. He said He would send his angels to protect you, yet you were abused. Did God fail you? Were His promises false? What will you do? Will you follow the dwarves back down the mountain, or sit and wait, and humbly return to your faith, asking God to show you what you missed? The way of the dwarves led to hopelessness and more of the same. The way of Bilbo led to open doors, opportunity, hope and a future. The choice is yours.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Questions for Discussion:
- When you get to a place like Bilbo and the dwarves, when something fails you, do you tend to react more like the dwarves or like Bilbo?
- What is the prophecy, the promise or the nature/character of God in which you are trusting and need to see?
- How/why have you felt disappointed by God?
- Have you ever realized that your disappointment was wrong (that is was because you misunderstood something, and God was faithful to His word in the end)?
- What examples can you think of in the Bible where people made wrong assumptions and therefore felt God let them down? Did He really?
by Stacey Tuttle
Click here to read a collection of quotes from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.