Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
Over the past three weeks, we have been dissecting J.R.R. Tolkien’s short story, Leaf by Niggle, and unpacking how this remarkable parable gives us an eternal perspective for our work.
But how can we maintain the perspective we have gained over the past few weeks? How do we “renew our minds” as Paul commands in Romans 12:2? Through study of the Word and fellowship with other believers.
Immediately after Paul commands his readers to renew their minds, he writes a long exposition on the value of the Body of Christ (see Romans 12:3-8). Why? Because Paul knew that community is essential to renewing our minds with eternal truths.
To his credit, J.R.R. Tolkien knew this too. Throughout much of his career, Tolkien met on a near-weekly basis with a group of Christian friends famously known as “the Inklings.” The group included some of...
See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind….[My people] will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isaiah 65:17, 21-22)
We’re in a four-week series exploring the biblical truths illustrated in J.R.R. Tolkien’s remarkable parable, Leaf by Niggle. Niggle was an artist who spent years developing a massive painting of a tree. Sadly, Niggle died only having finished a single leaf. But when Niggle arrives in the heavenly afterlife, he finds his tree finished and even better than he imagined!
Last week, we saw how this story illustrates the biblical hope that there are eternal rewards tied to how we work in this life (see Colossians 3:23-24)....
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Last week, I recounted the depressing first half of Leaf by Niggle, the short autobiographical parable written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Niggle was an artist who spent many years working on a painting of an enormous tree. But tragically, Niggle died only having completed a single leaf which was soon forgotten, along with Niggle himself.
Here’s the second half of the story: After his death, Niggle was sent to the afterlife where we find him riding a bicycle through a heavenly countryside. Suddenly, something caught Niggle’s eye that was so extraordinary, he simply fell off his bicycle. Tolkien writes:
“Before [Niggle] stood the Tree, his Tree, finished…‘It’s a gift!’ he said….He went on looking at the Tree. All the leaves...
“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-18)
J.R.R. Tolkien had a serious thing for trees. So when a neighbor cut down one of his favorite trees in 1943, Tolkien was furious. But his anger was about much more than the loss of the towering evergreen. Tolkien saw the “lopped and mutilated” tree as a metaphorical preview for what he feared for his “internal Tree”—his life’s work, The Lord of the Rings.
By this time, Tolkien had spent more than a decade toiling away at his magnum opus, but he was still a long way from completing it. World War II was in full swing in Tolkien’s home of Great Britain, and while the fifty-one-year-old was at no risk of being drafted into service, his experience as...