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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. Nick

    This is the kind of debate I'd have to have in person...basically...this man is unintelligent in the scope of general knowledge and religion. The fact that his argument has sun-sized holes is evidence enough...if he even believes that there is a sun and not that it's heaven's light glimmering in the sky. I feel bad that he cannot even make a logical argument in a field (religion more specifically Christianity) that he knows well enough to say he belongs to the group the informations comes from. The parable explaining "woe to the rich" just shoots into my mind whenever I re-read this drivel...It is a very arguable point that Jesus would find more in common with Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders today than a free-market Capitalist like Paulson

    December 7, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  2. Occupy This

    Bible stories have no relevance here. I could go look up the bible story where Jesus asks a man if he is his brother's keeper, in which he meant we are supposed to care about others as well as our capitalist selves. If you're going to give us passion plays and sunday school lessons, TP, it seems you would do well to go with the overall theme of Jesus's teachings about caring for others as well as yourself, and loving others. The book is meant to teach themes and provide guidance from 2000 years ago about major issues in life, it wasn't written about OWS. Keep it in context.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  3. Perry

    Interesting that someone as clearly and profoundly ignorant of the Gospels as Perkins is should have the gall to try and make a theological point.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  4. LT

    I'm looking forward to Jesus' thoughts on this when Tony passes away and comes face to face with "free market Jesus."

    December 7, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  5. Emily

    CNN, you are part of the problem:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9OLLbC7zFs&w=640&h=360]

    December 7, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • Sara

      CNN lost itself when it decided to become Faux News Lite. This article is one of the most ridiculous and inane pieces I've ever read...who would have thought that this would be a piece on CNN - it truly belongs on Faux News or World Net.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • cmcle

      Sara - Clearly this screed by Perkins is, to be charitable, rubbish. CNN prints it as an opinion.

      Look at it this way. CNN is doing a service by continuing to provide opinions from across the spectrum, especially from the bizarre lunatic conservative "Christian" fringe. Good people need to know how these people think so they can oppose them. I have no doubt that many people, hearing the name Tony Perkins, think "oh, he's that family values guy. And he supports candidate Y, so I'll vote for candidate Y." Whereas if they knew the true Perkins, from reading Foxshi* like this, they'd run from candidate Y.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  6. Nord Jim

    More proof that the devil can cite scripture for his own purpose. The Family Research Council has about as much to do with Jesus as Justin Bieber has to do with great music.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  7. Blue Texan

    Winners and losers? Guess Jesus was just kidding when he said that stuff about the last being first and the first being last.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  8. Woodrow P. Flintstone

    This might be one of the most overtly bizarre articles I've ever read. And if this guy thinks he's remotely what could be called a Christian, he's out of his mind.

    Mr. Perkins better hope the Christian religion is a big fantasy, because if it's not a big fantasy, there's a spot reserved for him, simply for writing this hideous missive, in the lowest depths of Hell.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  9. bernie

    "The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked."
    Fact??? What fact?? there's not a shred of evidence anywhere in the Bible. It's a collections of letters, and stories written by goat herders. Just hijack anything in the bilble to push the right wing non sense.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  10. cheryl

    This is about the lamest thing I've ever read. It tries to justify a system that is destroying the US – no, not capitalism ....capitalism without restraints. I can't say what Jesus would do....because I'm not Jesus. And frankly, neither is he.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  11. Boka

    Jesus never existed. Stop spreading lies.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  12. Marcus

    If Jesus was against collectivity (did any of the recipients of the miracle of fish and loaves earn what they ate?), then shortly after His death (in the book of Acts) the Apostles were apostate, since they and the early church sold all their possessions and distributed everything among themselves, claiming private ownership of nothing, but owning everything in common. Paul was pretty money-sore (ond thorn-in-side sore as well), so I can only conclude that the New Testament should have ended with the last words of the book of John. The rest is meaningless. Thank you for making my future readings so much easier. Good day.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Reality? Hardly.

      Except, if you read the entire book of Acts and the remainder of the New Testament, which you obviously didn't, you would have seen that the church in Jerusalem went BANKRUPT, having spent all their collective's money without re-filling the coffers. They had to go on welfare, receiving offerings from other churches throughout the known world.

      I don't think that was Jesus' plan.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • Marcus

      @Reality – and how does that differ from modern mission work? Don't many modern missionaries lack the basic money to so much as support themselves, let alone stay abroad in many cases, so have to go from church to church to beg for more? And was there anywhere in the same scripture a passage saying that all of those who did the collective thing lost their collective salvation?

      December 7, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  13. dan

    The business of Jesus was not for profit teaching the word of God and the increase he wanted was followers. Jesus died because he disrupted the business of the money changers and dove merchants. He overturned their tables and beat them with a whip. Jesus was not against business he was against bad business practices. The current merchants of this world are just as evil and in the kingdom of heaven "the merchants of this world will gnash their teeth".

    December 7, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • cheryl

      Exactly! Good job Dan.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Jorge

      Thank you for hitting the nail on the head.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  14. Dzerres

    Amazing how you can use the Bible to justify ANYTHING even if you know down deep that this can't be true, yup, there it is. I wonder if I can justify buying a Ferrari – that's got to be in the Bible somewhere, probably in the back.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • SupItUp

      Clearly the Bible is about compassion and charity, but God does not suggest you should suffer. Buying a Ferrari doesn't go against the Bible if you apply compassion and charity to your acts. So I suggest when you buy your Ferrari you buy me one too.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  15. mike

    What a sad person. A commentary that only reinforces that even religion and the word of a "prince of peace" can be infected by the lure of money. I wonder what Mother Teresa would say about this theo-plutocratic perversion of the bible...which was written by men with power and lucre as their motivations. Sad, sad, sad.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  16. Jorge

    This Perkins guy and his drivel are a sample of the diseased post-bellum socio-economic dynamic that the South is struggling to get out of, product of the moral indolence and mendacity caused by relying on 100 years of dirt-cheap forced labor and the poverty of independent and creative thinking that it has caused. The good-ole-boys have had a good run, living royally off of Southern anxiety and strife with their spin and hot gas, telling their listeners that the cause of all their ills lies in folks who don't talk, think, look or live the way they do. Case in point, folks like Jesse Helms preached segregation because he basically premised that blacks were less valuable to society. Today, folks like Robert Bentley practice discrimination and profiling against minorities because they are TOO PRODUCTIVE, just ask Alabama farmers.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • maninthehills

      ¡Como no!

      December 7, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  17. Going In Circles

    ***** Rather we are to occupy by using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve.

    Who is the one we serve ?
    Jesus or wall street ?
    Funny, he uses the word "ethically" when wall street has no ethics.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  18. free

    Not a word on compassion or love. I can find a passage in the bible that says Tony Perkins is an idiot and the Family Research Council is actually a zealot lobbying group. Their lobby for 'religious freedom' actually means eliminating the separation of church and state. It is their freedom to push down our throats their Evangelical religion.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  19. Texas Tumbleweed

    Jesus was the original socialist.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  20. God does not take sides

    Where did Jesus get the ten "minas" ?
    OWS people are not against Capitolism,
    they are against corruption.
    This guy is with the Family research council,
    Anti Gay, anti woman. anti liberal, anti Democrat, tool and liar.
    One of those people who "cherry pick" from the bible
    for thier own purposes.
    Another Conservative, rich, christian.
    Good luck getting into heaven.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Dallas

      AMEN!!

      December 7, 2011 at 8:14 am |
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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.