As I continue to mull over the response to my reading of the parable of the tenants, I wanted to draw some attention to interpretive opponents for a moment. That is, when comments (both here and over social media) started coming in on the subject, the most common response was something along the lines of “This parable has nothing to do with economics, but rather faithfulness!” The implication being that to read the parable economically, either positively or negatively, is an unsound hermeneutical approach to the passage.
I would like to note at least seven major theologians within the Reformed tradition who read the parable in just the way my critics say “I don’t know anybody who reads the parable about the good of economic labor.”
1. David Hall and Matthew Burton, in their abysmal book Calvin and Commerce, take just this very approach to reading the passage – that it reveals God’s approval of the capitalist model for wealth growth (pp. 69-71).
2. Wayne Grudem also notes the parable’s implications for business growth in his equally misguided Business to the Glory of God (p. 51 and surrounding).
3. Calvin himself seems to have understood the parable as having economic implications for the growth of wealth in his comments on the parable in his Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels.
4. John Schneider also takes this interpretive approach to the parable in his equally problematic The Good of Affluence (pp. 186-192).
5. Jay Richards, in one of the worst and most misinformed books on the subject I’ve ever read (Money, Greed and God, pp. 155-156), also takes this approach to the parable.
6. Joel McDurmon also notes the economic elements of the parable and takes this same approach to reading the passage in his God vs. Socialism (pp. 138-141).
7. Gary North also takes this same approach to reading the passage (Priorities and Dominion, pp. 538-539 and surrounding).
All of these men have approached the parable in the same way, noting its clear economic implications. I still (strongly) maintain that they have gotten their interpretation of the parable 100% backwards, but they all utilize the very interpretation I have been critiquing and demonstrate that those responders who protested that “nobody” reads the parable in that way are dead wrong. Almost everyone they read and cite most often have taken precisely this approach to the parable.