Greed Vs. Self-Interest: A Case Study Of How Economists Can Help Theologians Serve The Church -- By: David Kotter

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 19:2 (Summer 2015)
Article: Greed Vs. Self-Interest: A Case Study Of How Economists Can Help Theologians Serve The Church
Author: David Kotter

Greed Vs. Self-Interest: A Case Study Of How Economists Can Help Theologians Serve The Church

David Kotter

David Kotter is Associate Professor of New Testament at Colorado Christian University, Lakewood, Colorado and Associate Director for The Commonweal Project on Faith, Work, and Human Flourishing. He also researches as a visiting scholar for the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics where he contributed to the book For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty (Zondervan, 2014). He earned a B.S. in engineering and MBA from the University of Illinois, an M.Div. and M.A. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Preparing a sermon from the New Testament to serve a local congregation has always been a challenging spiritual labor. Exegesis and application require a pastor to bridge a language gap from Greek to English, a cultural gap from the first century to the contemporary ethos, and a geographical gap from the Levant to the Western Hemisphere.1 Since the 19th century, however, another growing gap has been introduced between the biblical text and the local congregation: an economic gap from a subsistence-level agricultural society to a wealthy industrial and information economy. To address this new gap, a pastoral grasp of economics can increasingly serve the church in biblical interpretation and application. The purpose of this article is to encourage theologians and economists toward interdisciplinary research to serve the church in bridging this exponentially-increasing economic gap. A

brief description of economic changes since the first century will illustrate this widening breach, and the remainder of this article will present a case study that addresses the challenge of distinguishing self-interest from greed as a sample of such interdisciplinary research.

Illustrating The Growing Economic Gap

From the first century until 2015, average income per person increased 12 fold throughout the world and a hundred fold in developed countries.2 During the same time frame, life expectancy tripled from around 26 to more than 75 years.3 Also, the population of the world increased by 32 times—from an estimated 226 million to 7.2 billion.4 While extremes of wealth and poverty still exist, the effects of these three changes are multiplicative on societies, as more people earning more money every year for longer life...

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