Why Rational Self-Interest?

Cody Libolt
May 26, 2017 · 3 min read

Christians often denounce “selfishness.” But the Bible shows rational self-interest as our main reason to follow God.

Whether we look to the Old or New Testament, to believers, or to the God whom they serve, we see self-interest. We should check our understanding of the concept of “self-interest.” Those who denounce self-interest say we should follow Jesus because of who he is, but not because of what he can do for us. Is that what the Bible says?

God the Father is self-interested:

Psalm 115:3

He does all that .

In Isaiah 48:9–11

I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

Jesus is self-interested:

Hebrews 12:2

Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross ; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.

The Old Testament tells us to be self-interested:

Gen 2:17

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,

Deuteronomy 32:47

For it is no empty word for you, , and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

The New Testament tells us to be self-interested:

Matt 6:20

But treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Mark 8:36

For what does it to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

John 10:10b

I came and have it abundantly.

1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So

1 Corinthians 9:27

But I discipline my body and keep it under control,

Gal. 6:8

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit

In the above verses, in Psalm 23, and throughout the Bible, we see God calling people to attain their own needs by following him. God operates out of self-interest, and he expects us to as well. Many Christians miss this point. So, how should we understand “self-interest”? In my view, self-interest is that which is “good” for a person. Interests are not the same as immediate whims or desires. What is in my self-interest? Those things that lead to my prosperity and life.

Here at this blog I will argue for an important truth:

In my view, rational self-interest is an overlooked yet fundamental principle in the Bible. I will work to show both the truth and the importance of the principle.


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