“Such a Little Thing”

“It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing.”

As the fellowship makes its way across the pass of Caradhras, their course set for Mordor to destroy the ring of power, Frodo, the ring bearer, loses his footing and rolls backward down the mountain before being caught by another in the party. In the fall, the ring slips out onto the snow where it is picked up by Boromir. As Boromir holds the ring up before his eyes, he wonders, almost to himself, that “such a little thing” is the cause of such turmoil among the free people’s of Middle Earth. Boromir, who desires to defend his people against evil, wonders why the ring cannot be used for good, why it must be destroyed if it possesses such power.

This is one of the great questions of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. With such power literally at one’s fingertips, why can no one use the ring for good? Why destroy it rather than harness it? Why not use for good what was originally created for evil?

These seem like valid questions. At the outset, I think anyone would at least consider the possibility. But by the end of the story, I’m not sure anyone would disagree with the mission to destroy it.

Over the course of the journey, Frodo, who carries the ring from his home in the Shire to the very fires of Mordor in which the ring was forged, grows more and more attached to the ring. The color begins to leave his face, the strength begins to leave his body, the soundness of mind and the love that he once possessed begins to grow colder, darker, fainter, all as his connection to the ring grows stronger and more encompassing. The more time he spends with the ring, the more he succumbs to its constant weight and temptation. The ring is referred to in the story as a burden for good reason. Though small and unassuming, it wears down and corrupts the mightiest of men. Gollum serves as an example of a creature who lives a broken and depraved life because of his worship of the ring, the “precious.” By the end of the story, after seeing that the ring, though powerful, only corrupts and damns the wearer, one realizes that destroying it is the only hope for the world. No one can use it for good. As long as it exists, evil has a foothold.

Here’s my question: does anyone else see how the ring could be seen as a parable for sin, at least to some extent? Specifically, I’m recalling times in my own life where I’ve assumed that sin was harmless in small measure. A little speeding here (or maybe texting while driving), a bit of complaining there, a touch of selfishness on the side, and all seems to carry on just fine. After all, I’m free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2), so sin can’t ultimately hurt me, can it? That seems to make it safe.

Don’t believe the lie.

I’m not claiming that salvation can be lost. Don’t misunderstand me. But I think that a cavalier attitude toward sin severely misunderstands the weight of holiness and the depravity of sin. In Romans 1-3, Paul is clear that sin corrupts and kills without exception.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Romans 1:18

Because of the seriousness of sin, he exhorts the people later to, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12), for, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2b). Once freed from sin’s grip, we ought to know better than to return to the works of the flesh. Sin is not to be trifled with; it is to be put to death (Colossians 3:5 and following). Just as the ring always corrupts, so sin always kills. And, though sin may not be able to claim the final victory over a Christian, it has claimed far too many in the day to day fight.

The challenge here is simple:

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since your are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:13-14

Boromir underestimated the corrupting influence of the ring. Don’t make the same mistake with sin.

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4 thoughts on ““Such a Little Thing”

  1. Definitely begin with prayer. Ask God to realign your heart. Then I’d recommend reading Romans slowly and deliberately. Paul walks through these things there. Ultimately, I think the key is a clear vision of God and of yourself in light of him. I seem to remember really starting to get it after reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.

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