Jesus had much to say about wealth and possessions. His parables make a variety of implicit and explicit statements about economic aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, much of the teaching we receive from the pulpit and in popular Christian literature on the economic issues raised by these parables is simplistic moralization. I suspect the reason for this is that most often those doing the teaching are either theologians with little knowledge of economics or thinkers who know economics but haven’t done extensive biblical study.
David Cowan’s Economic Parables: The Monetary Teachings of Jesus Christ provides some depth of thought about the economic implications of Jesus’ teaching. Cowan is a pastor and theologian with a Masters of Theology from Oxford. He also has worked for twenty years as bank executive and journalist for a variety of business periodicals. His grasp of both theological and economic issues is well evidenced in his book.
Economic Parables is collection of reflections on thirteen of Jesus’ parables. Cowan explores the basic contours of each parable and then offers some insight on what these parables might mean for the economic sphere of our lives. Each chapter ends with a list of other biblical texts to consider as well as questions that can be used for personal reflection or in a small group study. The book is non-technical and intended for a broad audience.
Unlike so many theologians who write about markets in restrictive limiting terms, Cowan lifts up market activity as something positive without idolizing particular views of economics. His discussion at the end of the book contrasting the difference between giving gifts and market exchange helps show why markets are so important yet insufficient for economic shalom.
I really like the book’s concept. Cowan is good thinker and writer. I readily recommend this book.