For the past week or so, I’ve been reading (…devouring) Myths of the Norsemen by Roger Lancelyn Green. Because I’m a complete sucker for mythology, my mind has been constantly consumed with thoughts of Odin the Wanderer, Baldur the Beautiful, the Giants of Jotunheim, and Loki the troublemaker.
That’s right- Loki.
Not Marvel’s Loki, brother of the Avenger Thor and played by Tom Hiddleston, but there are certainly similarities between him and the Viking’s god.
In the Norse tales, Loki is described as “a young man… fair to look upon, with twinkling, mischievous eyes. His cleverness and cunning [are] very great.” He has evil Giant blood in his veins but is a cousin of the Aesir, the gods of Asgard. Although he is admittedly a trouble-maker, he is young and innocent and soon proves a worthy ally of the Aesir.
This is going to be a happy story. Loki will show us that people aren’t necessarily bad just because they have bad ancestry, right?
This is a story of how greed can completely corrupt and twist you into something less than a god. Less than a human.
We are all given skills, powers, and privileges on this Earth. For example, we humans are more cunning than any other living creature- we build, we create, we think. You are reading this post right now, which means you are privileged with electricity and internet access.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
You have powers and privileges, and because of that, you have options. You can be grateful for what you have, then put what you have to good use. Choose to create beautiful things, help those in need, bring glory to God. Or, like Loki, you can decide that you don’t have enough.
Odin the Great welcomes Loki to join the ranks of the Aesir as a brother. The gods trust him. He rises from a wanderer and stranger in Midgard, realm of mortal Men, to a powerful god of Asgard.
Yet he is unsatisfied.
Instead of using his privileges for creating good, he disrupts the other gods and causes trouble. He starts out with good-natured pranks, but “a change seemed to come over Loki. His cunning grew unkinder; his gay impudence seemed often to be slyness; and he spent more and more of his time away from Asgard.” As his greed for attention and power grows, so does the malice of his tricks.
Greed is a vicious, never-ending cycle that seamlessly morphs into jealousy.
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
The more you want, the more you notice what others have. You ignore the powers and privileges you already have, telling yourself that you are poor. Just get that one thing, and you will be rich enough. A little more respect, a little more money, a little more power. Loki notices Thor, his power, his strength, and his magical weapon, the mighty hammer Mjӧlnir (myol-near).
When Loki finds himself in a scrape with the Giants, he readily resorts to using his gift of cunning to escape. He offers to betray Thor and the other Aesir by handing them over to the evil ones. We do exactly the same thing. We mess up. We sin. And instead of repenting and apologizing, we betray our friends or our God in an attempt to cover up our mistakes. We forget that God is our father, and his other children are our brothers and sisters. God adopted us and continues to love us, but we forsake him. Loki too looses all respect for his position. He does not love those who accepted him as family. Instead he crawls to the feet of their enemies. He lusts for gold and power like the mortal men do. He uses his gifts for evil.
“His smile was wicked where it had been only cunning before.”
Loki’s tragic spiral downward shows that greed can easily reduce an innocent troublemaker to a disgusting, self-loving backstabber.
“The world says: “You have needs — satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don’t hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.” This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.”