Why Rational Self-Interest?

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 he pleases.


In Isaiah 48:9-11

For my name’s sake 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 my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, 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 because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; 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, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.


Deuteronomy 32:47

For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, 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 lay up for yourselves 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 profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?


John 10:10b

I came that they may have life 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 run that you may obtain it.


1 Corinthians 9:27

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.


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 reap eternal life.


In these 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:

Valuing “your life” means valuing “your rational self-interest.”

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.