Periodical Reviews -- By: Carisa A. Ash

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 173:690 (Apr 2016)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Carisa A. Ash

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary

Carisa A. Ash


“Greed vs. Self-Interest: A Case Study of How Economists Can Help Theologians Serve the Church,” David Kotter, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 19 (2015): 17-47.

Kotter is associate professor of New Testament at Colorado Christian University and associate director for The Commonweal Project on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing. Although interpreters and communicators know the need to understand language, cultural, and geographical gaps when interpreting and preaching the biblical text, Kotter argues that another perspective has been underappreciated: “Since the 19th century . . . another growing gap has been introduced between the biblical text and the local congregation: an economic gap from subsistence-level agricultural society to a wealthy industrial and information economy” (p. 17). He uses several examples to illustrate this gap; first, the admonition of John the Baptist that “whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11), delivered “to a group of people for whom owning two tunics was noteworthy and having neither a tunic nor food was common” will be heard differently by an audience with “bulging closets” and a “pantry full of food” (pp. 18-19). Second, the “two denarii” the Good Samaritan paid the innkeeper (Luke 10:35), if understood as two days’ wages, would equate to around $400.00 for an average worker today and, “if current trends of productivity growth continue, the average worker in 2115 would earn the purchasing power of more than “$10,000 each day, as measured in 2015 dollars” (p. 20). He observes that such economic prosperity would have been inconceivable to the original audience of the parable, not to mention the majority of people throughout human history.

Kotter identifies a tension that this economic gap exacerbates, the distinction between self-interest and greed. He sees in the writings of the Apostle Paul a condemnation of the sin of greed and a corresponding affirmation of the virtue of self-sufficiency, which keeps one from being dependent upon the charity of others. He helpfully classifies Pauline instruction through a “Pauline income statement” (pp. 25-30) and a “Pauline balance sheet” (pp. 31-39). Even readers without an economics or accounting background will find the classifications helpful.

Kotter concludes, “Paul called all believers to work profitably in the home, local church, and marketplace. This work by God’s grace along ...

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