Many fantasy lovers would say that the scene at Khazad-dum with Gandalf and the Balrog is counted among their favorite showdowns in all of fantasy literature. For me, that would be true. It is a face-off between two equal powers, in a struggle for supremacy and ultimate authority. “Durin’s Bane” (as the dwarves called the Balrog) would figure into their lives much more than they realized.
Gandalf knew the evil that lurked beneath the mountain, and dreaded the idea of going through the Mines of Moria. In the movie, Gimli is anxious to visit the Mines to meet his people, however the book paints a different picture. It had been some time since anyone, let alone the dwarves, had contact with anyone from Moria. Everyone, including Gimli, feared the worst and feared going into the Mine. Their fears proved to ring true.
Even as they defeated the first wave of orcs, Gandalf sensed something greater. As he went to protect the party with spells, he was countered by the Balrog, and that act alone almost destroyed Gandalf. Their meeting on Khazad-dum would see that feat come to finality, but at similar cost to the Balrog. Both lost their lives on the mountain, and of course, we know, Gandalf was brought back.
With that, the Balrog is a great symbol of the dwarves greed. It is often said that they “dug too deep” and their love of mithril had driven them too far, where they found a great evil – one that would eventually destroy them.
The same can be said of greed in our own lives, particularly when it comes to our money and wealth. We so readily horde our possessions, and are so slow to share with those around us. We are secure our own future and comfort by doing so, and have little care for the outside world. Though there is more than plenty to go around, we horde. The dwarves were guilty of this from Thorin’s gaffe, which lead into the Battle of Five Armies, to the unearthing of a long-hidden evil in the Balrog. For us, our “digging too deep” may come to fruition with the alienation of friends and family because of our wealth/greed/selfishness. It may come through our general attitude towards life. It most likely will come, however, in our insatiable desire for more, more, more. We can feed the beast of our greed, but it is ever hungry and never tires.
For Gimli, he found redemption in Lothlorien, where Galadriel blessed him saying, “Gimli son of Glóin, that your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.” For a race that regularly delved “too deep,” causing their relationships with others to be strained and making them isolationists, this was a great gift. Gimli would be rich, but his horde would never master him, the way the Balrog had mastered the dwarves – ultimately costing the lives of many dwarves, and one great Istari.
Jesus knew this about money. He talked about money quite a bit, even while it is something we are ashamed to talk about, and he kept in front of the people the fact that money is a master. With that, one cannot serve two masters. He will love one and hate the other, every time. He says, “You can’t serve God and money.” Serving money will only see you come to ruin, and the very thing you worship and serve will destroy you, leaving nothing behind. Serving God will leave you full, whether you have money or not, because He is the source of eternal life.
It is easy to “dig too deep” in our own lives, as we get caught up with what our culture tells us we need in order to survive. It has created a culture of very greedy people, who are driven by the Balrog of Greed. May we come back to Christ, the only source of life abundant, and seek him alone for our fulfillment.