The following is from Book V of “The Lord of the Rings” series (which is actually the second half of “The Return of the King”), chapter 9: The Last Debate. In this scene (which has been edited for length), the combined armies have won their great battle to defend Gondor, but Sauron and the ring still exist. This quote begins with Gandalf talking about their options.
“If it is destroyed, then he will fall; and his fall will be so low that none forsee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of his strength, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble. And so a great evil of this world will be removed.
“Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
“This, then is my counsel. We have not the Ring; without it we cannot by force defeat his force. But we must at all costs keep his Eye from his true peril. We cannot achieve victory by arms, but by arms we can give the Ring-bearer his only chance, frail though it be.
“We must make ourselves the bait, though his jaws should close on us. We must walk open-eyed into that trap, with courage, but small hope for ourselves. For, my lords, it may well prove that we ourselves shall perish utterly, we shall not live to see a new age. But this, I deem, is our duty. And better so than to perish nonetheless – as we surely shall, if we sit here – and know as we die that no new age shall be.”
Two things in this passage stand out to me: 1) The courage to walk into almost-certain death for the people you are helping, most of whom are strangers. 2) The understanding that this brave act won’t even fix everything, but it’s a step in the right direction, so it’s what you have to do.
About the first, it’s unlikely that I’ll have a chance to sacrifice my life to save strangers, bit I do have daily opportunities to sacrifice my comfort and time to love other people.
I especially love the second idea. I need to be constantly reminded that I can’t do everything – house every hungry orphan, heal every hurting friend – and that’s alright. It’s not my job to save the world; God has/is doing that. My job is to tend the field I’m given. Maybe that will involve non-profit organizations and political office, but maybe it will just involve a few kids to raise, a circle of broken friends to love, and congregation where I can serve. Maybe my job in life won’t seem “important” to most people, but that’s not my concern. I have work to do.