Lead Like a Hobbit

December 12th, 2013
Image courtesy Warner Bros/New Line Cinema

Over seventy-five years after the initial publication of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, director Peter Jackson is back with the second of three films following young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on his life-changing adventure through Middle-earth. The first film in the trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, released in 2012 to critical acclaim and commercial success, raking in over $1 billion in box-office revenues. Now, one year later, Warner Bros. is set to unleash the second volume, The Desolation of Smaug, in movie theaters. This installment sees Bilbo and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), along with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his fellow dwarves, traveling further into the heart of Middle-earth to confront the infamous dragon that has taken up residency in the Lonely Mountain. On their way the true King Under the Mountain and his band of warriors face giant spiders and the untrusting wood elves, ruled by Thranduil (Lee Pace), father of Legolas (Orlando Bloom), all before arriving at their destination, the former kingdom of the dwarves at Erebor, now home to the gold-loving dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Small Deeds, Great Leaders

Like other Tolkien adventures, The Hobbit film series takes the main characters on an expansive trip through fantasy world locales, putting them face to face with a wide array of fictional races: elves, orcs, goblins, dragons, skin-changers, wizards, and more. Along the way the characters encounter several illustrious leaders. From the wise but chilly ruling of Lord Elrond to the brash and arrogant approach of Thorin Oakenshield to Gandalf’s method of guiding up to a point then trusting his companions to find their own way, a variety of leadership styles are represented in Middle-earth.

The story also produces an unlikely leader: the title character, Bilbo Baggins. Though Bilbo lacks the brute strength and supernatural powers of his companions, he emerges as a leader because of his bravery and cunning in times of trouble. Like Bilbo, we need not be a great warrior or a political figure to be a leader. We all are blessed with God-breathed talents and are put in positions to use these gifts to guide and influence others. Some of us will do this through traditional leadership roles—as pastors, teachers, coaches, or business executives; others will do this is more subtle ways, leading by example.

The Fellowship of the Faithful

Often we think of a leader as an outspoken individual who takes charge and gives orders; and there are plenty of situations in which this leadership style is necessary. But leaders also must be humble, serving and showing compassion to those whom they lead. Jesus himself showed humility when he served his disciples by washing their feet (see John 13:1-20). Abraham (see Genesis 18:16- 33) and Moses (see Numbers 14:11-25), who were great Old Testament leaders, went before God to request mercy and compassion for people who had gone astray. Paul, a key leader in the early church, completely changed his plans to serve a Macedonian man who came to him in a vision (see Acts 16:6-10).

Some of your youth may already be in positions of leadership—serving in student government, as the captain of a sports team, or as an officer in a club or service organization. They may even hold leadership positions in your congregation or youth ministry. But those youth (and adults) who are not in positions of authority are still called to lead by example, much as Jesus and other biblical leaders led through service, compassion, and advocating on behalf of others. Just as Bilbo Baggins appeared unremarkable but proved to be a great leader, we can be influential leaders also, even if we are never elected or appointed to a position of power.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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