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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
256 pages
Aug 2007
Paternoster

Economic Parables: The Monetary Teachings of Jesus Christ

by David Cowan

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Review:

David Cowan realizes that the American economy is in a mess, so in his book Economic Parables he tries to offer wisdom, comfort, and insights from the Bible on how to deal with money problems. What is surprising is Cowan's unique interpretation of many of the standard parables we grew up hearing in church. For example, the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19) is not about being covetous of the wealth one has accumulated, says Cowan, it's about failing to be completely submissive to Christ in all things. Cowan points out that when Jesus called the 12 disciples, he said, "Follow me," and they did, leaving jobs and families and possessions. What Jesus was asking the rich young ruler to do was to sell his land, clothes, animals, houses and crops, plus say goodbye to his parents, so that the young man could leave home and walk with the Lord. The rich young ruler wanted to do none of that, so money was just one of his problems.

Likewise, Cowan tackles the very difficult problem of understanding why Jesus told a story in which he praised a seemingly dishonest business manager (Luke 16:1-13). Cowan says that in those days it was against the social norms to charge interest to people who owed you money. As such, when the mid-level manager had the debtors reduce their debts just to the actual amount they owed (with no interest added) and he got that money out of the debtors for his boss, it was very clever. The manager got the money, as he was ordered to do, but he also backed his boss into a corner because if the boss complained about not also getting the interest he wanted to charge, everyone would know he was a crook. So, Cowan says, that shows that Jesus wants us to know as much about business as possible so that we can beat the con artists at their own games.

One message Cowan drives home over and over is that "self-interest" is not the same thing as greed. Proper investments, careful money management, and wise spending are in line with Christian stewardship, particularly when accumulated wealth can be used for the goodness of others.

Cowan shows his readers that many times the reason they cannot understand the message of an economic parable by Jesus is because they are trying to take it on face value rather than on a spiritual level. For example, in the story of the man who paid all of his worker the same pay, whether they worked ten hours or just one hour in his vineyard, is not a lesson in vineyard management. It is a message that underscores that God is not at all like business people who gripe about wanting things to be "fair" in life. Anyone, at any time, under any circumstances, can invite Christ into his or her heart, and that person will receive the full glory of heaven, just like the repentant thief on the cross. Is that fair? Well, which would you rather have, a full life of joy in Jesus or a burdened life without the Savior until the last day you are alive? You tell me which is fair, argues Cowan. Interesting perspective.

This book will cause you to re-examine your views on everything from stewardship to investing. It's groundbreaking, disturbing, and completely new in its approach. You won't be bored, and you'll probably gain a lot of food for thought (and material for prayer). Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com

Book Jacket:

Ever wondered how to pay the next bill? Felt the world is unfair in economic rewards? Been indecisive about investing wisely? These types of economic questions are addressed from a Christian viewpoint in Economic Parables.

Listening directly to the words of Jesus, readers are invited to reflect on a number of Economic Parables to understand life in an increasingly globalized economy. Some of the answers will be surprising, in part because Jesus was a more sophisticated economist than he is given credit for by the modern world. Many economic problems and decisions can be viewed in light of the gospel.

By taking this journey through the Economic Parables, the reader will enrich their response to the economy in faith. Each chapter contains a parable and reflection, followed by questions making the book ideal for group or personal Bible study.