Bilbo and his fellow adventurers find themselves in quite a predicament when they choose to overnight in a mountainside cave. The cave turns out to be no cave at all, but is the front porch of the Great Goblin! This gives Tolkien an opportunity to tell the reader a bit about goblins and their nature.
Goblins are an evil race. There is nothing good about them. One thing that struck me in reading about them was the way Tolkien’s described their evil. He said, “Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones.” Earlier, we learn about the dwarves, their solid craftsmanship, and their love of shimmering things. The elves create “good” things as well. We read about Orcrist and Glamdring – two very special blades crafted for the Goblin Wars. Tolkien also treats us to their songs throughout the book. However, when we come to goblins, we learn that they create no good things. In addition, they create many clever items – items meant for the destruction of many and the torture of their prisoners.
Oddly, this reminds of me of certain criminal masterminds, both recent and of years past. Ted Kaczynski, also known as “the Unabomber,” is a good example of this. Harvard accepted Ted at the young age of 16, where he proceeded to dazzle his professors and fellow students. He later received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in mathematics. How did he use this knowledge? To kill people. More broadly, think of the average computer hacker. They are a dime a dozen today. However, to hack well, one must have a basic knowledge of several computer languages, the ins and outs of their target, and the knowledge to deal with the information once they find it. Situations like these remind me of the goblins – an innate ability to create and think, but using it for destruction and malevolence.
Why is that? Why can we not all be dwarves and elves and appreciate good things? Because our sick hearts will not let us. We are born into sin, and that sin is an all-encompassing characteristic of our nature. Sin taints our creative juices from birth. Humanity demonstrates this in every workplace in world, with people using knowledge, creativity, and people skills to claw their way to the top of whatever world they live in – whether it is a thriving business or a church. Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Because of sin’s grip on humanity, everything we do, even our thoughts are “only evil continually.”
Often in response to this passage and others like it, I will hear the following rebuttal: “Well, what about <insert good deed here>. That is a good thing done by a good person.” Genesis 6:5 does not say that man only does evil, but that the thoughts of his heart are evil. Even the good they do has a foundation of evil – filled with self-serving motives and secret agendas. We know this. We know our own hearts well enough to know this. When we look in the mirror and are honest, it is just the plain truth.
What hope do we have then? Are we doomed to be like the goblins, creating devices and situations that serve us only, along with our evil desires? Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ that he is making all things new, and that in him we are a new creation. It reminds make of C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Eustace becomes a dragon because of his greed. Eustace had been insufferable for the first portion of their journey, and his gluttony had finally caught up with him. As a dragon, he was alone and miserable. He finally saw the error of his ways, and Aslan mercifully changes him back to a boy. How? By tearing his “old self” to shreds.
Is that not what Christ does for us? We like Eustace and like the goblins create no beautiful things without Christ. Christ makes us a new creation through belief in him. In that change, we are able to please the Lord with the beautiful things we make (or do). Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” What a glorious thought! That those who were once “only evil continually” have been made new in Christ. Christ changes our hearts and minds to seek after him and see us to completion in glory. Then, in heaven, there will be no evil things.