at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Lessons from Gollum: The Paths of Ill-Gotten Gain

For my 31st birthday, I decided to write down 31 of my favorite proverbs, or wise sayings from the Bible that I had been studying.  This year, I am hoping to take a deeper dive into each of them and share some thoughts on them with you here.

The first proverb I listed was this:

"Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it. (Proverbs 1:19)"
When re-reading this, the first thing I thought of was the creature Gollum from J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings stories. Gollum was once a small man or Hobbit, I think one of the river folk, and he went by the name of Smeagol. However, a fierce and consuming jealousy took hold of him when his friend found and beheld the Ring of power -- to the point that Smeagol committed murder so that the Ring could be his -- his "Precious", as he called it. Ill-gotten gain, to be sure. And what was the result? He had the Ring, yet it whittled away at his life, while still keeping him alive, until he was nothing more than a miserable creature, tormented by his own self and his desire for the Ring.

Left to wander the earth in torment, Smeagol turned
into the miserable creature, Gollum
Now, that's an extreme example with a very visible degradation of Smeagol's life into Gollum. For us, it may start off as an internal destruction, which may or may not lead to visible consequences. If you lie and cheat your way into whatever it is you want -- a position at work, a social status, a public image -- you may indeed get the initial gain you sought. But, like the Ring, it's really a slow poison to the soul. Lies are a slippery slope -- the more you do it, the easier it is to do the next time, and before you know it, it may come "naturally" without a second thought or hesitation. It's often greed or idolatry -- whatever is most "precious" to you -- that will tempt you to sin in order to gain. But is that who you really wanted to be? Is the degradation of your character worth the supposed gain?
"What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" --Mark 8:36
Is not who you truly are more important that your wealth or personal gain? Jesus himself warned us against greed:
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” --Luke 12:15
Check out what Matthew Henry has to say in his commentary on this proverb:
"Who could think that it should be a pleasure to one man to destroy another! See their idea of worldly wealth; but it is neither substance, nor precious. It is the ruinous mistake of thousands, that they overvalue the wealth of this world. Men promise themselves in vain that sin will turn to their advantage. The way of sin is down-hill; men cannot stop themselves. Would young people shun temporal and eternal ruin, let them refuse to take one step in these destructive paths. Men's greediness of gain hurries them upon practices which will not suffer them or others to live out half their days. What is a man profited, though he gain the world, if he lose his life? much less if he lose his soul?" (emphasis added)
So what is it that is most precious to you? Are you placing your value on the right things?  The new year is a great opportunity to examine your priorities and do a sort of heart and soul check.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -- Luke 12:34

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!