Game Of Thrones: Win Or Die
George R.R. Martin's books aren't for everyone. Long before HBO's depiction of the stories I peddled those pages at Waldenbooks. I was a bookseller for a while there and remember the frenzy that happened among my nerdy friends and customers in 2000 when book 3 came out. I remember: #1. Having no idea the books existed, #2. Being shocked at how passionate people were about this story, and #3. thinking only hardcore nerds would be into this stuff and it would never be popular (I hadn't fully grown into my nerdiness yet). And yet a decade or so later and BAM! it's one of the most popular television series of all time, and like Doctor Who it's begun to have episodes air in theatres as well as the small screen. The tale of Westeros and the Iron Throne is far from over, as anyone following along will know that the 6th book has yet to see the light of day, and book 7 seems like an eternity away. Many fans fear that Mr. Martin will in fact die before the story is finished being told, but here's hoping. Whether you are a longtime fan of the books or someone who just finished binge watching 5 seasons (6 depending on when you are reading this) of TV, hear me out for a minute.
The ultimate theme and driving force across this adventure is power. The quest of many of the characters is to wield power individually and collectively. Joffrey wanted power to wield like a weapon, along with his mother hoping to pull the puppet strings. The Mother of Dragons wanted power at times for vengeance but ultimately because she believed it was her right and that she could do good. Little finger wants power because he feels like he's smarter than everyone and that they deserve to bow to him. Renly wanted power because he felt he would be a better king than Stannis, and Stannis wanted power because he believed it was his right as well. Varys wanted power over everyone's secrets and desires. These people were/are often self seeking, greedy, and willing to sacrifice almost anything and anyone to get their desires, but so often, it wasn't worth it. So many lives, like seriously, SOOOOOOOOOO many lives were lost and beautiful things destroyed all so these people could receive power. As Daenerys so powerfully stated, "Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell, they're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that one's on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground." Let's face it, when people are hungering and thirsting for power many of those who get hurt aren't even the ones involved in the battle. I mean seriously, Ned Stark for crying out loud, Rob's wife Talisa, Bran, and pretty much anyone who ever was in the same room with Joffrey, people suffer when others are hungry for power.
While this may be a recurring theme in Westeros, it's also pretty standard not only in our daily lives, but also in the Bible. Saul recklessly fought to preserve his power for David. When Simon The Sorcerer saw the power of the Holy Spirit in Acts 8, he even tried to buy it "18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”"
Some people don't just want power though, they want the name, the title, the seat of honor. While we know that our Fire and Ice friends want an Iron Throne, that doesn’t mean that attitude is limited to Westeros. Even the disciples had this attitude, not just when Jesus had gone, but even while he was still physically walking with them. Look at these shenanigans: Mark 10: "35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
The disciples, like so many characters in G.O.T. were just concerned about sitting in the position of significance or authority, so much so that they were completely missing what was happening right in front of them and what God was actually doing. Blind attitudes like this are how you end up with situations like the "Red Wedding." But Jesus goes on to put their throne-chasing in perspective "42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”" As followers of Christ we have to let go of our
quest for earthly thrones, recognition, and power because Christ sets the example that the one who serves is greater than any on the throne.
If you look into Game of Thrones some of the greatest and most loved characters are those who have no interest or ambition to rule. Jon Snow, Tyrion, Sam, Brienne. These are the people who were driven by a purpose other than their own selfish ambitions. Sure, not all of them were honorable, noble, or heroic, but they became people who stood out because in a story full of self entitled monarchs trying to be elevated, the humble, the meek, the servants, and those seeking redemption truly rule. We are still a few years away from finding out who finally ends up on the throne on the series, and probably a decade away from the final conclusion in the books, but my money is that whoever ends up on the throne will be someone who deserves it, not someone who sought after it.
Look what Jesus says in Luke 14, "7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”" Jesus shows us that power, honor, prestige, all of these things are something that yes may be given to us, but we are called to go the route of humility. If you are given power or position, awesome, use it, do something good. But the further you go seeking power, the further you are away from Christ. That goes for pastors, missionaries, corporate, social media, notoriety etc. You may not be trying to sit on a throne, but if you are driven by selfish ambition, position or praise, you are playing a dangerous game.
Cersei so pointingly told Ned Stark "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." But even more so, if you have to lose everything to win, you pretty much have died anyway. "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?" - Mark 8:36 "He has brought down rulers from their Thrones, and has exalted those who were humble." Luke 1:52