Becoming Sméagol by Charles LaFond
Most of us, with some saintly exceptions, find pledging money to God, through the church, hard to do. I want to hold it back, let others pull my weight, rest on dead people’s gifts to the endowment.
That is my inner-Gollum talking. Do you remember J. R. R. Tolkien’s gnarled character in The Lord of the Rings? He had a split personality; “Sméagol” still vaguely remembered things like friendship and love, while “Gollum” was a slave to the Ring who knew only treachery, scarcity and violence.
One summer day I took a friend of mine on a tour of my farm. She ooo’d and ahhh’d over a summer squash, and though my impulse was to pick it for her to take home, something inside me sputtered, crackled, chilled, hissed and withdrew. “I had a poor crop,” a voice in my head said. “It is my precious,” Gollum might have said. That squash was the only one I could see. So I smiled, rather too sweetly, and we moved on.
The next day I was playing with my dog Kai and his ball went into the garden. Searching for it among the squash plants, I lifted leaves and found six huge gourds, more than I could possibly eat. It turns out that I could have shared with my friend. I chose not to do so.
Our pledge is not about giving to the church. Our pledge is about being who we were designed to be, trusting that we will have enough and giving some away. To practice giving is to practice letting go. Since we will all one day die, this practice is essential for human wellness.
When I give, I am leaning into the Sméagol part of my nature and away from Gollum. I am giving because I was designed in the image of God who is creator, lover and giver. We give to God’s mission through the church because we are seeking to live as redeemed and divine creatures, to reclaim the Garden of Eden, one square foot at a time.
Charles LaFond is widely recognized as one of the most important stewardship leaders in the Episcopal Church today. He spent a decade as a corporate nonprofit development officer and a second decade as an Episcopal priest and monk. He is now the Canon for Stewardship at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver. He blogs on spiritual life, food, hospitality, and generosity at charleslafond. This essay is from his recent book, Fearless Church Fundraising: The Practical and Spiritual Approach to Stewardship (New York: Morehouse, 2012).