Working for the Glory of God: The Distinction Between Greed and Self-Interest in the Life and Letters of the Apostle Paul
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SubjectPaul, the Apostle, Saint
Bible. Epistles of Paul--Criticism, interpretation, etc.
This dissertation demonstrates that the Pauline corpus is sufficient to discern a distinction between self-interest and greed. The review of literature in chapter 1 reveals that definitions of greed often rely on such terms as “excessive” and “inordinate,” without defining the terms. Chapter 2 shows Paul’s expectation that believers work usefully in the church, home, and marketplace. Paul exhorted believers to work profitably to bring glory to God, serve others in love, and be self-supporting. Serving others is aided in the marketplace by the information conveyed by prices and profits. This chapter defines “sanctified self-interest” and highlights Paul’s encouragement to generosity. Chapter 3 employs interdisciplinary tools from accounting (income statement and balance sheet) to show greed is manifested as an insatiable desire for more and an unwillingness to give away possessions. The Pauline income statement indicates that greed causes sin at work, such as fraud or neglect. The love of money makes profit the ultimate goal rather than subduing creation and serving others. The Pauline balance sheet represents reasons for holding assets: sustenance, utility, security, and enjoyment. Beyond these assets, maintaining possessions devolves into greedy indulgence and signaling riches. Chapter 4 extends the distinction into standardized categories across cultures and through time by valuing goods in terms of the unchanging standard of hours of human life. Chapter 5 compares the Pauline categories to representative Second Temple Jewish literature to show that Paul’s views of avarice and economics were consistent with, but not identical to, this literature Chapter 6 compares the Pauline categories to representative Greco-Roman philosophical schools to show the fundamental differences with Epicurus, Seneca, and Aristotle. Even when all four superficially agree, the supporting rationale diverges radically. An important conclusion is that the methodology utilized in this dissertation imposes neither modern economic categories nor Pauline categories into every historical text. Chapter 7 summarizes the argument and underscores that the changes facing the church over the next two centuries will be even more rapid than the economic developments of the two centuries since the Industrial Revolution.