Sunday, March 1, 2015

Paved with Good Temptations

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:1-3)

The One Ring gives its bearer great power over everyone and everything in Middle Earth, so the central characters of Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring set out to destroy it once and for all before its evil creator, Sauron, can regain control of it. Frodo Baggins is the ring bearer, but not by his own choice. He has inherited the job from his Uncle Bilbo, and twice he attempts to give the ring to someone more powerful, more important, more fit for the job than he.

He first offers it to Gandalf, but the great and wise Wizard quickly and vehemently rejects the offer, saying, “The way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength.” He would use it with the intent to protect people like the Shire-folk and to keep evil at bay, but the very nature of the ring would give him too much power and ultimately make him no better than Sauron.

Frodo tries again later, just before the Fellowship leaves Lothlorien, to give it to the Lady Galadriel. She, too, admits that she is tempted to accept, and has in the past thought about what she might do if she were to obtain it. Like Gandalf, she recognizes that it would give her too much power and ultimately end just as badly for all concerned. When Sam tells her he wishes she’d take Frodo up on his offer, to “put things to rights” and “make some folk pay for their dirty work,” she recognizes the truth of the matter: “I would….That is how it would begin. But it would not stop with that, alas.”

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We want to do something, we want to help people, but we don’t always go about it the right way, or else our real motives are not as pure as they appear to be. We are tempted to take matters into our own hands, we are tempted to say something, we are tempted to take action without thinking ahead to all of the ramifications. Sometimes, like Jesus, we are tempted to take the quick fix for our hunger or the easy way out. When we are tempted by the seemingly good or innocuous path, may we, like Jesus, Gandalf, and Galadriel, be wise enough to recognize the consequences and strong enough to resist the temptation to be in control, in power, or in the spotlight.

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