The fantastical world of Middle Earth, as discussed previously, is a representation of the state of the world we live in as followers of Christ. The state of the Christian between corruption and glory. The very notion of something or someplace existing beyond time and space stretches our imagination past the point comprehension. However, a desire to know more is part of the nature of man. The desire to have or be more is also natural to man but can be sinful. If asked the question, “Do you desire to be more like God?” how would you respond? Now don’t you go and get ahead of me, anticipating an ambush. Of course you want to be more like God. In fact, God commands it. Your sanctification guarantees it. Christ suffered and died for it. Specifically what I am asking is in what areas of your life are you to be more like God and what areas are you forbidden to be more like him?
In the beginning God created man holy and happy. According to the Westminster Divines, the bible teaches that God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures. Adam and Eve lacked for nothing in the garden. Every good material and intellectual possession was at the disposal of man. Being sighted people we tend to visualize all of the illustrations we have seen over a lifetime and paint a picture of life in the garden. Oh, what a lovely, tranquil, happy scene, right?
I return to the question, Do you desire to be more like God? If your answer was yes, then you join some famous company, for so did our first parents. The problem is that we are, as were Adam and Eve, mutable creatures. We are subject to change. The first change in all of the history of mankind was from being content to covetous. The story of man’s contented state is a very short story. Where we most constantly need to be more like God, and yet have the most difficulty and often the least willingness, is in the area of contentment. We are taught from birth to be achievers. In the venerable words of David Lee Roth, in the Van Halen hit “Dreams,” we are told, “Reach for the golden ring, (notice that ring theme again) reach for the sky. Baby just spread your wings. We’ll get higher and higher. Straight up we’ll climb.” Not one of my favorite Van Halen tunes, but the video was a great recruiting tool for the Navy, which featured the Blue Angels aerial performance. Really cool stuff. The lyrics are not about flight in that sense however. The message is that if you are dissatisfied with your current relationship, follow your dreams, flee from your commitment and find that perfect love. Discontent? Then listen to Satan and follow your covetous heart. Not that Van Halen is Satan, despite what your mother said.
God is perfectly content in himself and he is immutable. Therefore he cannot be discontented. One way to be more like God is to practice Divine contentment. If I may, let me plug a book. It’s my blog, I can do this. “The Art of Divine Contentment” by Thomas Watson can be had from Amazon for the price of a latte. About seventy pages of some of the rarest jewels you will find outside of the Bible. Don’t be turned off by the 17th century English. The rarity is magnified by the beauty of it.
Returning to Tolkien we remember Sauron, who was the evil dark lord, the Darth Vader of “Lord of the Rings,” was the creator of the ring of power, which was the central theme of the story. Sauron was also a servant of Morgoth, the representation of evil in many of Tolkien’s works. There is little doubt that these characters alluded to Satan and his various manifestations. Theories for what the ring symbolized for Tolkien vary. However it is clear that the ring derived its power from it’s creator. What was the nature of that power?
This power allowed the ring to reach inside of those who had it and draw out their most base elements of covetousness. Rings are by definition symbols. They, like all adornments, speak for the wearer. This ring however spoke to the wearer. It had a life of its own and that life was part of its creator. When Satan spoke to Eve in the garden, he appeared in the likeness of a creature that, like the ring, should not have been speaking. Do you see the similarities to the stories? Satan appealed to the same thing the ring did, man’s discontent. Look at the chink in the armor that Satan’s arrow pierced. Look at what he said to Eve. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5) In other words, man, you are not satisfied with the lot you have been dealt, God has not given you everything he could, he has made you less than himself, less than you deserve and you desire to be like him, in the sense that you know what is best for you. In order to accomplish this, do exactly what God says not to do, follow you heart.
Gandalf, the prophetical wizard, warned Frodo of the ring’s power. The warning was, do not succumb to your desire to do that which I tell you not to do in order to gain what you desire. He told him not to put it on. Though, pragmatically, the ring delivered Frodo and Bilbo out of some tight spots with the wearer’s power of invisibility , but the consequences were negative. The power of the sin of discontent lies at the heart of all of our sin. Satan does not make us sin, he merely dangles before our eyes that which we believe God has denied our possession of. He puts before us the idea that we are our own gods. We desire to be like God, masters of our own destiny. Our hearts are idol factories, and the first and most dear idol they create is self esteem.
I challenge you to spend a little time thinking about the relationship of sin and discontent. Do this exercise. Name a sin and consider the motivation for that sin. You will always find discontentment and covetousness is not only present with that sin but is the motivation for it. I think that you will be able determine that the tenth commandment is violated in conjunction with every other commandment. This can be a rather dismal experience, like a hike through Mirkwood when the forest was sick. However there is a bright light at the end. Christ has delivered you from the power of the ring. That does not mean that you will no longer experience discontent. What this means is that he has made you able to be content (Phil. 4:13) and that you are no longer condemned if you are not(Rom. 8:1).