The first is from The Magician’s Nephew in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series, where Lewis tells of the young boy named Digory who is sent on a journey by Aslan to retrieve an apple from a distant garden beyond the western mountains. The boy is told not to eat the fruit but rather to simply pluck it from its branch and return it to the Lion who intends to use it to plant a tree that will provide freedom, justice, and protection to Narnia forevermore.
After a long journey, Digory arrives at the garden. He does what he was told. He enters through the gate and picks the apple but, as he turns to leave, an evil witch confronts him. “You fool,” she says. “Don’t you see that one bite of the apple would give you your heart’s desire?”
Digory is tempted. There is so much he desires that is “good.” Just one bite would heal what is sick and restore what is broken around him. Just one taste of the apple would, as he sees it, set the world right.
But the boy resists. He returns the apple to Aslan. There the Lion tells him that if he would have given in to the temptation to eat the fruit at the “wrong time and in the wrong way,” that, yes, he would have had “his heart’s desire,” but, in the end he would “loathe it ever after.”
“All get what they want,” said the Lion, “[but] they do not always like it.”
The second story is from J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. You remember the poem: “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” The ring beckons to all. In many cases it temps us to grasp its power. We see this time and time again in Tolkien’s tale. The tension between the two brothers Faramir and Boramir is but one example. Faramir resists the ring. He refuses to let power draw him in. He knows that one evil can never truly conquer another. Boramir, his brother, however, gives in. He is consumed by the ring and grabs it, not necessarily to do evil but to “do good” and he, thereby, dies a fool’s death.
The lessons from both of these stories are clear.
Both Lewis and Tolkien warned us: Doing wrong even under the banner of a “noble good” is still wrong. This is the lesson of the Lord of the Rings. It is the lesson that Lewis emphasizes over and over again in The Chronicles. When our church and political leaders excuse the unconstitutional “methods” of our President while at the same time extolling the “higher goodness” of his cause they are essentially like Tolkien’s Boramir, grasping at the Ring for but a fleeting gain, while in reality only bringing himself and all of Middle Earth that much closer to the bondage of those given over to the worship of power.
Doing “good” in the “wrong way and the wrong time” is never good. Some actions may appear right in the short term but in the end they will lead us to “loathe them ever after” as we lose our liberty by ignoring the Law. Indeed, “We may get what [we] want” but we will “not always like it.”
“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
Talking Points With President Piper is a weekly column featured in the Examiner-Enterprise newspaper. In addition to serving as the Oklahoma Wesleyan President, Dr. Everett Piper is also a frequent guest commentator on a variety of talk radio programs across the nation, as well as a published author and essayist.