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My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier
A protester camps out at St. Paul's Cathedral last month in London. Tony Perkins says Jesus had a different view of "occupy."
December 6th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier

Editor's note: Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council in Washington.

By Tony Perkins, Special to CNN

(CNN) - One of the last instructions Jesus gave his disciples was "Occupy till I come."

As Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem for the last time, just before his crucifixion, he was keenly aware that his disciples greatly desired and even anticipated that the kingdom of God was going to be established immediately on the earth.

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As a way to break the news that it wasn't going to happen in the manner and with the timing they expected, Jesus pulled them aside and gave them instructions by way of a parable.

The primary purpose of the parable, which appears in the Gospel of Luke, was to make clear to his disciples that the kingdom of God would not be physically established on the earth for some time and that, until then, they were being entrusted with certain responsibilities.

Jesus, depicted as a ruler in the story, would have to leave for a while as he traveled to a faraway place to receive authority to reign over the kingdom. In his absence, the disciples - depicted as servants - were to "occupy" until he returned.

Here's the direct quote from Luke: "He called his ten servants, and gave to them ten minas, one mina each (a mina today would be worth around $225), and he then told them to 'Occupy till I come.' " (Luke 19:13, King James Version)

But just what does Jesus' order to occupy mean? Does it mean take over and trash public property, as the Occupy movement has? Does it mean engage in antisocial behavior while denouncing a political and economic system that grants one the right and luxury to choose to be unproductive?

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No, the Greek term behind the old English translation literally means "be occupied with business." As with all parables, Jesus uses a common activity such as fishing or farming to provide a word picture with a deeper spiritual meaning.

From a spiritual perspective, the mina in this parable represents the opportunity of life; each of us is given the same opportunity to build our lives, and each of us shares the same responsibility to invest our lives for the purpose of bringing a return and leaving a legacy. Jesus gave equal responsibility and opportunity to each of his 10 servants.

The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked. When the nobleman returns, after being established as king - a stand-in for Jesus - he calls all his servants together to see what they had accomplished in his absence.

The first servant reports a nice profit: 10 minas. While the story lacks specifics on whether he invested the money in a herd of sheep or a hedge fund, we do know that he made his gain by engaging in business transactions of some sort. He used a free market system to bring a tenfold return on investment. No doubt such a return took a lot of diligent, dedicated effort.

The newly established king praises the servant and gives him a reward that's an even greater return on his efforts, "because you have been faithful in very little I will give you authority over ten cities."

Likewise the second servant in the story, who had turned his one mina into five, is praised and rewarded with greater responsibilities: He is given five cities.

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The third servant in the story had apparently either slept through his economics course or was just indifferent to the work delegated to him.

He had essentially kept the capital entrusted to him under his mattress for safekeeping.

When called to give an account of what he had accomplished, the man immediately attempts to shift the focus off his failure with excuses of how unfair the boss was because he was always trying to get more than he deserved for his money.

The employee review is immediate and intense: "Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant." The king's disappointment and frustration are nearly palpable. "Why didn't you at least put the money in the bank and draw interest?" the king inquires.

While such language might prompt an HR complaint today, its meaning was quite clear to the disciples. There are no excuses for doing nothing.

Parables generally have a twist near the end, a final jolt to drive the point home. This one is no exception. The ruler orders that the capital, or opportunity, given to the lazy servant be taken from him and given to the most productive servant. "To everyone who has, more shall be given," the Bible reads, "but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away."

Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades: that everyone gets a trophy - equal outcomes for inequitable performance. There are winners and yes, there are losers. And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual.

Some would argue that such an approach encourages abuses, the likes of which we have seen on Wall Street. While some egregious abuses have taken place, they are not inevitable or intrinsic to free enterprise.

The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed.

Remember, these servants were not working for themselves, but under the constraints of their lord and for his benefit. Likewise our free market system works when bridled by morality. Not arbitrary morality that changes with political parties, but transcendent moral principles.

Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence, even though it is occasionally abused. Rather we are to occupy by  using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Perkins.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Economy • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (3,372 Responses)
  1. Melissa

    1. Jesus was fictional.

    2. Jesus was a liberal.

    Deal with it.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • MarcTTF

      3. Jesus was a socialist

      December 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • JTC

      Sorry, no- Jesus was a true historical figure. He actually existed. Are you perhaps referring to the idea that he was resurrected after dying for the sins of man, etc.?

      December 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Jeff

      I defy anyone to point to one of Jesus teaching that compeled, commanded, instructed, or suggested that a government do the work invidividuals are to do. Yes he a liberal, yes, just not in the way a liberal is defined today. All of his commands are to "you" the indiviual.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • JasonP

      Jesus was real. Jesus was just a man. Jesus knew he was just a man and was likely quite happy being just a man.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      Jesus is real. Hell is real. You don't have to go there.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Common sense

      Melissa is real

      Melissa uses logic

      I'd rather listen to her than Jesus

      December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bubb

      Gag me. Tony Perkins is a hypocritical ass, an ignoramus and a shill for the 1%, among which he obviously counts himself. The Occupy protestors are AT THIS MOMENT CREATING the "Kingdom of Heaven on Earth" that Tony speaks of. They are fighting for love and equality, fairness and honesty in and between all men. That IS what Christ wanted. Tony Perkins better pray and meditate on what Christ-like behavior REALLY is or he'll be real surprised when his number comes up someday and he finds himself tap dancing for the devil.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • lolwut

      @JTC jesus probably did not exist.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • conrad

      Jeff,

      What kind of work could any government do if it were not composed entirely of people? It is certain that had Jesus advocated any type of government it would be one that focused on taking care of our fellow man ... sounds socialist to me.

      Love they neighbor as thyself
      You are your brother's keeper
      Forgive your enemy

      I doubt he would think working til you drop to enrich corporate CEO's is a good thing.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      "God has chosen the foolish things of this world (to man) to confound the wise, so that no man can boast." Your humanistic reasoning won't hold a glass of water on judgement day.

      Oh and by the way, you won't even begin to understand what is spiritually discerened in the scripture until your unregenerate soul is made new by the Spirit of God. To God Be The Glory.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Major Phil

      Listen everyone, don't stand too close to this person when lightening strikes her.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  2. Chris Highland

    I wouldn't be pre-occupied by this use of the Bible and the Bethlehem Baby. Perkins and those like him who fancy themselves the defenders of faith and freedom always show their true colors in lines like this: "Rather we are to occupy by using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve." Wonder what the Rebel Rabbi would say about those "ethics"?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Jeff

      His disciple Paul would say, "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him LABOR, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
      Ephesians 4:27-29

      December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Greytheist

      Can't he who stole just use his unimaginably vast fortune to hire a bunch of illegal immigrants to labor for him, or better yet export that labor overseas where lax labor laws allow that labor to be done for pennies on the dollar by enslaved children?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  3. John Schultz

    It's a PARABLE!!! It isn't meant to be interpreted LITERALLY!!!

    The parable actually has nothing to do with money! Do you think Jesus was instructing his disciples to build business empires in his absence?!!! NO!!!

    He was instructing them to PREACH HIS GOSPEL vigorously and aggressively to gain converts and save souls!

    In this parable, Jesus is the noble who will return as king and expects his disciples to have been busy and to have achieved great things in his absence.

    This parable has nothing to do with money and business and the gospel is replete with quotes from JC himself about how the wealthy will never enter into heaven because they obviously have lived for themselves rather than their fellow man and God's glory!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Jeff

      Rich can't go to heaven, realtively speaking then no one in American could, correct? Money is neither good nor bad, but rather what is done with your possesions is what the determining factor...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Nomboria

      Jeff – Exactly. The OWS protesters aren't protesting wealth, or they'd be camping out in front of Bill Gates' mansion. They're protesting the greed of a few imploding the economy, buying politicians into stealing trillions for the taxpayer to make sure THEY get THEIR money back, then funding huge campaigns demonizing teachers and cops for being too greedy and the poor for needing food stamps in the economic ruin THEY wrought. Buying politicians into slashing aid for the poor during a severe recession to try to fix a monstrous deficit caused by gifting you and your rich buddies trillions of dollars is pretty damnable.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  4. Donovan

    Just another reason why millions have left fundamental Christianity to follow the true Jesus. Good job Tony, keep talking so more will start walking.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  5. kiki

    This is just another example of a Dominionist twisting the gospel to support his political beliefs. Disgusting.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Jeff

      As opposed to those who shout from the roof tops that Jesus was a socialist...it happens ob both sides...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Nomboria

      Have you actually read the bible Jeff? Or were your religious beliefs conferred to you at your boarding school during a reading of the gospel of Ayn Rand?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  6. Michele

    Working as a social worker/ counselor for many years I have seen God at work in peoples lives. God does help people to find hope and change their lives. Inspired by all I have experienced in social services over the years. I wrote this book to show that God is there for you and to provide hope to hurting people in times of crisis. God is working miracles in the lives of so many. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1467933562?ie=UTF8&force-full-site=1

    December 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  7. Paul

    don't strain your back tony, thats a pretty big stretch you've got going there!

    December 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  8. Frigeridus

    Oh for God's sake. JC a free marketer? Could you get any more ridiculous if you tried? By the way, JC may not have been an Occupier ... because He was actually homeless. You know, foxes have holes, the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

    December 6, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  9. Lynn

    Tony Perkins is a right wing partisan hack who wouldn't recognize a "Christian value" if it hit him upside his coiffed, hairsprayed head......

    December 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Brett

      I loved that. Thanks.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  10. Doc Vestibule

    Another example of somebody using Scripture to "prove" a ridiculous point.
    It's like hunting through verses to see if Christ would drink Coke or Pepsi – patently absurd!

    Jesus endorses Ranch Dressing and detests vinaigrette.
    "He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich."
    PROVERBS 21:17

    December 6, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • SaladDays

      OMG really?

      December 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  11. Reality

    JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

    December 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  12. Reality

    And how much does Tony Perkins make for spouting his and Dobson's "red neck views"? -––

    $200,000/yr.

    December 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  13. George Clifford

    This interpretation of the parable tosses two thousand years of biblical studies out the window. Unfortunately for the author, the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. Jesus was not an economist and did not teach economics. For example, charging interest for the use of capital is a basic premise of capitalism, yet Christians for over a thousand years believed, based on their understandings of Jesus' ministry and teachings, that charging interest was sinful. Indeed, one prominent group of early Christians, according to Acts 4, were socialists. Some of these primitive Christians probably knew Jesus. Perkins' twisted interpretation of the parable illustrates the old adage that one can prove almost anything by quoting the Bible.

    December 6, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Jeff

      People making a personal decision to sell what they have and help others is NOT socialism. Government's imposing taxes to re-distribute wealth is socialism. Paul wrote if someone would not work he shouldn't eat and that we should work so that we can prosper (there's that nasty profit word) so that you or I (indiviually) can help the poor. Sounds like free market principles to me...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • JasonP

      And that is why I AM a socialist.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Lynne

      @jeff. If you re-read that passage, you will see that the disciples made that decision on their own as an example. Verse 9 actually says that they did this despite having a 'right to such help' (implying without quid pro quo for labor).

      Taking individual verses or stories without context is very dangerous.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  14. Colin

    You can be pretty sure you created your god in your own image, when he has exactly the same likes and dislikes as you...

    December 6, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Felix The Navidad

      We can be absolutely sure you do not know what you are writing about as your shriveled dead soul exposes your folly.

      December 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Felix: You'd first of all have to provide proof a soul exists and given that we know without a doubt that you can't, you just sounded like another stupid christard living in the the dark ages. Put away your computer child and go back to your cave. I'd be willing to wager that Colin has a much better education and thinks more rationally than you.

      December 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • kiki

      Felix, remove the plank from thine eye dude.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • steven harnack

      @Felix, hey cat, that didn't make a bit of sense. Typical.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  15. Tim Stokes

    Only a capitalist can take a parable that was meant for bringing more people to the Kingdom of God and make a literal interpretation that Jesus favored a free market! Jesus was referring to the disciples' mission of baptizing people and strengthening His Church, not saying our mission on earth is to build as much wealth as possible. The first servant brought in 10 new people, the second 5 new people,and the third brought only himself. If this argument as Jesus/God as a corporate executive were true, as presented in the article, why would Jesus shortly after giving the disciples' their directions disrupt the moneychangers and the markets in the Temple? And was there a free market in existence within the Roman Empire? A sad reason to expose capitalistic value over human value.

    December 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  16. Nonimus

    WWJI, What Would Jesus Invest?

    "Likewise our free market system works when bridled by morality. Not arbitrary morality that changes with political parties, but transcendent moral principles."

    Free Market, Christian style. Manna futures anyone.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Where I usually try to give a valid scriptural based addition to the discussion, here I have to be a bit flippant and probably will get at least one or more regulars p1$$ed off at me.

      Remember, Jesus saves and Moses invests but Muhammed profits.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  17. W247

    Wow – that is certainly a different way to interpret this parable.

    And all along I thought it was about taking the gift that was giving to you (mina = the Good News) and sharing it with others (sharing the good news with others, bringing more people to the throne).

    Interesting.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      That's the way the Jesuits and the Brothers of the Holy Cross taught it to us back in my high school and college days.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  18. .

    This is such a disgusting and offensive article that I cannot express my utter loathing for this "man" and his subversive lies!!!
    Such people are better left unborn.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • .

      And if this is what passes as the editor-troll's opinions on what makes a good article for the belief blog, then their "lulz" are just as disgusting as any 12 year old sociopath's version of "lulz". What next? Gore pics of mutilated babies? I am seriously p1ssed.

      December 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Ahh... the spiritually enlightened. You can always count on them to dehumanize "man".

      December 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • .

      Nonimus, I happen to be an atheist. But I will ignore your knee-jerk response. I've done it before myself. And to you once or twice as I recall...under a different name of course. There are certain types of people I will always be glad to see destroyed, like this Perkins slime. I don't have the words to say it all without violating several laws and bursting a blood vessel.
      When I said I was seriously p1ssed, I meant it in a non-religious way.

      December 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @.,
      I had assumed you were Christian because you called an article about a non-traditional view of Jesus "subversive lies." It seemed a fair assessment at the time... actually it still does. Anyway, sorry for assuming you were religious, my bad.

      However, I still don't agree with the implied dehumanization of "man" or a "man", religious or not.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  19. William Demuth

    Parable teaching from a fabricated savior.

    Perhaps its time more of us reject this nonesense outright.

    Jesus never existed in real life. He is propoganda and nothing more.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • mark

      Prove it!

      December 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • JTC

      You are incorrect. Substantial evidence exists of his being a real figure.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Patrick

      Where, JTC? Where is his presence proven, where is it proven that he existed? I want peer-reviewed evidence that the zombie jesus existed! That's what I thought! And don't even attempt to bring up the Shroud of Tourin', it's been debunked 100 times or more.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      You won't be sayin' that when His foot is on your neck and you are confessing to the glory of God the Father; as will every soul dead or alive, that He is Lord.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Mark the burden is on YOU.

      If I claim the Incredible Hulk is real, and I hand you Avengers #8 do you accept that as proof?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • conrad

      Patrick,
      Can you give me peer reviewed evidence that Love exists, sadness, grief, pleasure, or happiness? The same criteria that we use to establish the existence of these states is exactly the same evidence a believer uses to establish the validity of spiritual experience.

      What we rely on to talk about anything is shared understanding that comes from personal experience. You have to take a bite of an apple to know what one tastes like. Until then, you may be inclined to believe they don't taste nice.

      Just like sadness is genuine to a depressed person, someone who has never experienced it might think the person is just making excuses. But to them it is quite real.

      Many people have described witnessing the divine in themselves and being transformed by it. Many of these people were previously staunch disbelievers.

      For now, I will have to assume that you just haven't had any such experience. Sadly. I hope you do.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Jason

      Even Richard Dawkins, the noted atheist, thinks that Jesus probably existed. So you could be right, but it doesn't take a Christian to disagree.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • steven harnack

      @JTC, so just where is this alleged evidence? Provide some links to some concrete evidence, not just hearsay. I'm a voracious reader of history and I have never come across any evidence such as you claim.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  20. MarcTTF

    I can jsut see it now:
    The Holy Bible – American Capitalist Version ~ 2012

    December 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • .........

      That would be the New American Republican Version with Tea Party Apocrypha

      December 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • MarcTTF

      They could take out all the caring and sharing bits, and leave all the nasty stuff. That way they wouldn't have to cherry pick to be considered true christians.

      December 6, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.