Today in the Mission Yearbook

Presbyterian ruling elder notes that Jesus spoke freely about money


And so can we, says a certified financial planner during Stewardship Kaleidoscope

December 12, 2023

Sherry Kenney (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Churches rely on members with more money to power ministries that help those with less. Yet our attitudes about money can fuel or deplete our power to help ourselves and others.

Sherry Kenney, a certified financial planner and ruling elder at Central Presbyterian Church in Denver, explored these assertions in “Is it Wrong to be Rich?” The workshop was part of the annual Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference in Minneapolis, an annual conference sponsored by the Presbyterian Foundation.

Kenney, a former Ministry Relations Officer for the Presbyterian Foundation, now coaches pastors in the Foundation’s Church Financial Leadership program. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking with a lot of people about money — their money and other people’s money,” she said.

Attitudes about money come from family, culture and circumstance, sometimes with unintended results. For example, not boasting about money (1 Timothy 6:17) can translate to not talking about money. That hampers important decisions in our homes and churches.

Jesus had no trouble talking about money, Kenney said. In fact, he talked about money more than anything other than the kingdom (or kin-dom) of God.

To gain insight, Kenney suggested an online quiz developed by Kansas State University: What’s Your Money Personality? It identifies four attitude categories (most people won’t fit neatly into just one, she said):

Money worship: People who identify with this category tend to think more money is the solution to most problems, thereby giving money outsized power.

Money avoidance: If our parents fought over money, for example, we may avoid talking about it, even if we are pastors leading stewardship efforts. The Presbyterian Foundation can help with that, Kenney said. She also recommended the book “Kitchen Table Giving” by William G. Enright.

Money vigilance: Those who identify with this one watch their spending and save carefully. They can also be secretive: “In the church, we would call that a lack of transparency,” Kenney said.

Money status: Money is seen as a way to influence or gain acceptance. Often the result is appearing wealthy despite depleted reserves, Kenney said.

Jesus famously said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25) Where does that leave any of us whose resources might exceed what we need?

A participant suggested that perhaps it means: “If you die and still have all your money, you are going to have to squeeze through the eye of a needle. But if you share, you might get to go through a larger aperture.”

Laughter followed. “I’m really having a new vision now. I love that,” Kenney said.

Kenney’s reading of Mark 10:25 is that our wealth can come between us and God, making us self-reliant rather than God-reliant. It can come between us and our neighbor in that we tend to associate with people of similar economic circumstance and don’t see the needs of others. She shared data from the Federal Reserve indicating the top 10% of earners in the U.S. control almost 70% of the wealth. The bottom 50% of earners control less than 3%.

To bridge these gaps, we can start by debunking myths and attitudes about poverty and wealth. She highly recommended the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty’s book, “The Problem of Wealth: A Christian Response to a Culture of Affluence,” which asks: “What would it mean for the world if we lived by an ethic of enough?”

She then rephrased the workshop’s original question, “Is it wrong to be rich?” as: “Is it wrong for those of us who have good jobs and who enjoy privilege and who benefit from the current system to continue to embrace it?”

Examples of people with different values working together to embrace the “ethic of enough” to life are everywhere, Kenney said. She and participants named a few in their communities — everything from ability-to-pay cafes and caregiver grants to churches that fund school lunches.

If we can move away from a scarcity mentality and toward such an ethic, she said, “I have no doubt we can experience more fully the kingdom, or kin-dom, of God, and bring others into it.”

Nancy Crowe for the Presbyterian Foundation, writer, editor and animal wellness practitioner based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Today’s Focus: Stewardship Kaleidoscope

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Teresa Sontarp, Controller, Board of Pensions
Jake Souder, Program Assistant, Educational Resources, Office of the General Assembly

Let us pray

Lord Jesus, you demonstrated for us a heart for all people. May we do what is needed to introduce the lost to your love and mercy, for the sake of your kingdom. Amen.