Is Enlightened Self-Interest Biblical?

If you were thinking way better than you are, it’s remotely possible you might realize that the ultimate fix after the show is shared. I think it’s clear to most of us already, those of us who understood the earlier analogy, anyway:

I’m looking forward to a shared embrace, except it will be me who will have received the gift, the gift of additional future grace.

ETA: Oh, replying with your ultimate fix nonsense, I bet the irony in “the extreme selfishness of Jesus’ motivation” went whoosh right by you, didn’t it.


Because by his death and resurrection he is rescuing sinful delinquents off the streets and out of jail so they can be adopted into his Father’s family? A larger family with reciprocated familial love has more joy than a smaller one. Capisce?

So Jesus’ death increases his joy because he has more happy siblings to spend eternity with. That might just happen to please Father and increase his joy as well, not to mention the Holy Spirit’s?

Hey, we agree on something! Where in the little parable was there anything said about the gift being required to prove love? Your point is good for us all to understand and remember, but it is superfluous to the argument.

If you love someone, you desire their well-being. Not a problem. Therefore, you would do things to increase that wellbeing. Fine, but why not leave it there.

Love leads to good works and everyone is happy, but, No, Piper has to add something to the equation, which is not Biblical and is not right.

Enlightened self interest either means something or it does not. Ig it does not mean anything, then it must be dropped Occam’s razor so to speak. If it means something, if it adds to the command to Love your neighbor as yourself, then what is it? It says that we should love our neighbor, because we will receive a benefit from that love. In some sense that might be true, but it sounds too much like works righteousness to be taken seriously.

Christianity is not Judaism, although Piper seems to think they are very close. “Piper considers that Christians, living under the New Covenant, are not under the Old Covenant law but able to fulfill its intent through faith in Jesus Christ.[70][[71]]”(John Piper (theologian) - Wikipedia)

I will give you more than some citations. I will give you a whole book that started this whole sorry mess. * John Piper and Wayne Grudem (editors). Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (RBMW). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1991 and 2006.

Because the Bible doesn’t. In Hebrews, guess where, 12:2.

You need to do some work in understanding what the New Covenant means.

Say, that’s really helpful, passing the question on to a whole book somewhere else because you cannot articulate a concise answer and cannot point to a specific instance that makes your spurious point.

Is anyone else having as much difficulty as Roger @Relates in understanding that ‘enlightened self-interest’ (or one of my suggested replacement terms: ‘the self-gratification of love’ or simply ‘the gratification of love’, or ‘the gratification intrinsic to love’) does not contradict nor detract from sacrificial love but complements it and makes it whole?

Without the resurrection and the prospect of future joy in fellowship with his redeemed siblings, Jesus’ death was silly and could neither result in life nor joy for those he came to save.

I don’t think you are quite there with a name for it yet, but I do agree that the bible uses gifts/rewards as a an incentive for voluntary submission to God’s will. I also think that Hebrews 12:2 says that the promise of future joy is one of the of the reasons Jesus voluntarily submitted himself to the Father’s will in redemption.

Some Christians disagree, concerned that a reward/gift incentive somehow calls into question the genuineness of the motivation. But I think that has more in common with enlightenment thinking where things should be sought or avoided for the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of the thing or action itself. I don’t think we see that in the Bible.

For example,

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. ~ Deuteronomy 5:16*,

The Lord could have said, “Honour your parents because it is the right thing to do”, but instead uses the blessings of a well-structured family as an incentive to obey. cf. Paul’s emphasis on the ‘promise’ of this verse is in Eph 6:1-3.

Or again,

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her [Wisdom], and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown. Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. ~ Proverbs 4:5-9

Here the Sage gives his apprentice a powerful incentive to heed his advice and pay the ‘cost’ required to grow in godly wisdom. Namely, that all things being equal, the wise are honoured by their wisdom and flourish in the world by avoiding the mistakes of the wicked. That is (one of) rewards God holds out to motivate us to diligently seek wisdom. There are a bunch of verses like this in Proverbs.

Or again,

“For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” ~ Ezekiel 18:32

Here God could have said, “Repent it is the right thing to do” but instead, “life” is held out as an incentive to motivate repentance.

The clearest examples of this reward-incentive, I would say, are seen in Revelation when Jesus speaks to the seven churches:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. ~ Rev 2:7

To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. ~ 2:17

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations… I will also give that one the morning star. ~ 2:26-27

The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels ~ 3:5

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. ~ 3:12

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. ~ 3:21

Seven times in seven letters, Jesus motivates the reader to overcome evil, sin, opposition, and apathy in the last times by holding out a reward to incentivise the one who “hears what the Spirit says to the churches” and puts it into action. Personally, I think it is amazing that God is so good and gracious that he does not want our obedience to be dutiful drudgery in cold pursuit of the ‘right thing to do’ but a delight and joy in the pursuit of a God who is open-handed and generous towards those who serve him.

All that is a long-winded preamble to say that I think Hebrews 12:2 follows the same pattern. That one of the the reasons Jesus’ agrees to submit to the Father’s will in redemption is because of the joy he would experience at his glorification. That is consistent, I believe, with the general theme of reward incentives in the Bible, and it is supported by the grammar of Hebrews 12:2. Ie. Why did Jesus endure the cross? Hebrews 12:2 says, “because of the joy set before him”.

That v3 says “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Would imply that we, are to consider Jesus’ example of faith and the reward he received, so that we would likewise persevere in faith and focus on the joy that awaits us in the presence of the Father. Keeping the faith despite not yet receiving what one has been promised is the main theme of Hebrews 11:1-12:3 after all.

Finally, I don’t think we have to worry that Jesus (or others) being incentivised to submit to God’s will might somehow call into question their motivations. The LORD is the one to whom all hearts are open, he is able to see whether a person is seeking a reward as an end in itself or as a means to deepen one’s delight in his goodness and grace.

EDIT: isn’t that the whole point of giving gifts in the first place? That the giver would delight the recipients joy and the recipient would delight in the givers generosity. Lastly, this isn’t work’s righteousness I am describing because salvation is still through faith in Christ alone by God’s grace alone. So if the word ‘reward’ makes you uncomfortable, may be try replacing it with ‘gift’.

*all verses NIV2011


My wife and I wonder if obedience to parents isn’t so much about reward and long life as it is about helping parents obey the next commandment (Thou shalt not kill! :rage:) and not having the child’s life shortened. The corollary to that is it only seems like your life is long (and boring) if you obey your parents. :grin:


And a good parent-child relationship is an apt image (actually the archetype), because it demonstrates how love and obedience should work. A loving child should be obedient and hope for the father’s smile. The parent gets both gratitude and gratification when a gift is given. (As Christians we recognize that we deserve nada, and everything we get is grace. We can also look forward to future grace.)

@Relates: I’m not at all saying that you are unloving, but I am certainly saying that you do not understand much about it if you cannot recognize the intrinsic aspect of gratification in it.

What is desired? How is that desire gratified? Selfishly? Not at all.

Jesus loves me, and he is gratified through his death and resurrection.

My friend, if you do not respond to my replies to you in a respectful manner, why do you expect me to respond to the same questions you ask in a disrespectful manner?

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I’ll delete it. I am still perplexed why you apparently cannot see that there is gratification intrinsic to love, even in sacrificial love.

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Please answer my question. Your question is not germane.

Which question would that be? The one you asked Liam @LM77?

I suspect you have not read Desiring God, Piper’s seminal book, maybe because you unjustifiably recoil at the subtitle? It fits very nicely with a pair of parables, however:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:44-46

God is desirable, and not only that, he’s the ultimate desire. If we are not seeking the gratification of having him in our lives, that makes obedience to the greatest commandment rather difficult. He is not just a set of ideas to subscribe to.

Huh. Appropriate timing:

Chaps, I went ahead and pulled out (most) of the posts about enlightened self-interest. As it was starting to takeover the previous thread where folks are still posting about ESS and marriage roles.

Feel free to carry on the discussion about ELI here.

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Thanks. That was a chore, going back through the whole bunch.

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