Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gold Fever

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The dwarves have found their treasure and dragon guarding it has been vanquished. While the men of Lake-town are busy dealing with Smaug and his aftermath, the dwarves are already counting and dividing and dreaming about what they will do with their shares of the gold and jewels. Even little Bilbo is not immune from the sickness – when he happens upon the Arkenstone, a magnificent jewel that belonged to dwarf leader Thorin’s ancestors, he takes it and hides it away, never telling anyone he has it even as he watches Thorin search for it day after day. 

Bilbo is not totally beyond help, though, something which is made apparent even as the dwarves prove right what Paul said about the love of money and the roots of evil. A large company of men come from Lake-town to talk with the dwarves and to reclaim the portion of the dragon hoard that had been stolen from their ancestors who used to live near the Lonely Mountain. They feel that it is only right for the dwarves to grant them this, especially considering the fact that Lake-town was destroyed because they helped the dwarves on their quest and that one of their number was responsible for Smaug’s death. The dwarves, unwilling to concede, barricade themselves inside the mountain and refuse to talk with the men or come to any kind of compromise. Seeing that the dwarves are hell-bent on bringing about their own destruction, whether through battle or being besieged, the little hobbit takes his burgled treasure and slips unseen to the camp of the men. He presents the Arkenstone to them as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with stubborn Thorin.

Thorin is incensed at the idea of trading the men’s treasure for the jewel, however – why should he have to pay for what is rightly his? He is even angrier when he discovers that it is the betrayal of Bilbo that has put the stone in the men’s hands. At this point, knowing that he was wrong to take the Arkenstone to begin with, Bilbo takes the high road in the situation and attempts to make amends – he asks that the jewel be considered his 1/14 share of the treasure, which he will then trade for a share of the gold and other treasures. Then, he will give his share to the men, keeping nothing for himself, because as much as he covets the Arkenstone, he values more his own wellbeing and peaceful relations between all parties involved.

Like Bilbo, we don’t always do what is right, and we become overly possessive of things instead of keeping our eyes on God. At some point, however, we can make the choice to continue to be like Bilbo and find ways to compromise and to make peace with others, turning our eyes back to friendship and harmony – the kinds of treasures that won’t rust and can’t be taken from us by thieves, dragons, or dwarves.

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