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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. jan

    Mr. Perkins forgot Matthew 5 , Jesus's Sermon on the Mount. No man can serve two masters, for he will hate the one, and love the other, oe else will hold on to one and dispise the other..Ye cannot serve God and Mammon (money)

    Beware of false prophets which come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are wolves. I can't fit the whole sermon.. He should read it all and remember how Jesus felt about the money lenders. Mr. Perkins is a fake, using the guise of Christianity to push his own personal views, not God's. As long as the occupiers are peaceful and don't hurt anyone, they are fine.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Robert Christine

      Gee CNN: if you want this kind of logic, why don't you just hire Glenn Beck back? We expect you to be better than Fox news, not imitate them!

      December 7, 2011 at 9:16 am |
  2. woodofpine

    Jesus was constantly invited/encouraged/goaded to politicize his ministry. After all, he was from a political family (House of David) yet he steadfastly refused right to the end to politicize his message...

    Thanks Perkins (not).

    December 7, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  3. jed

    Good grief! This fellow totally misses the point of the parable that Jesus taught his disciples and then wrongly goes on to use it to justify modern corporate greed. He should pray that no one listens to his advice (Luke 17: 1-2) and perhaps he should ponder Luke 12:13-21 - The parable of the rich fool.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  4. TJRii

    I'd tackle the arguments in this trash, but why argue over a bad work of fiction? How about we snap out of a storybook set in centuries past and return to reality in the present, eh?

    December 7, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  5. Marcus

    Begrudging people for being successful and wealthy hardly exemplifies Christian values. It only proves that you're an underachieving, jealous whiner...

    December 7, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • LoudMouth

      I'm assuming you're responding to my comment. No jealousy here and I don't begrudge the wealthy. Most of them have worked hard for their money and I admire their drive. Like Jesus, I realize that it is "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to enter the kingdom of Heaven." Why? Greed. Most wealth is made by taking something: people's energy, resources from the earth, etc.. You get the idea, right? To take without giving back is unjust. Injustice is just the opposite of Christian values.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Carl

      Wow! Mr. Perkins, according to the Bible on Judgment Day the sheep will be separated from the goats. Those on the goat side will ask "But Lord, when did we see you naked, hungry, in prison....etc." – and He will reply, "When you refused to do it for the least of these my brothers." There is NO mention of whether the least were responsible for their own plight. The rich man had an obligation to help a fellow man in need, and CHOSE not to do so. Same with the rich man and Lazarus parable, (Lazarus) a sick beggar who lay at the rich man's doorsteps with open wounds until he died. That rich man went to hell, saw Lazarus being comforted by Abraham and asked for relief. Abraham said no, that the rich man had his comfort while on earth. Then there are countless admonitions about focusing on treasure here, instead of treasure there. The camel having a better chance of going through the eye of a needle, than the rich man going to heaven. Or when the Pharisees tried to trap him with the Roman coin, Jesus said to render under Caesar what is Caesars and until God what is Gods. Love of money and wealth, lack of compassion for the poor was a quick ticket to damnation not salvation. True, we should try to be productive, but to excuse what Wall Street has been up to with their fraudulent schemes that cost the taxpayer $$$ and put our economy on perilous footing is really pathetic.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  6. yeap that's right

    Perkin's again......?

    December 7, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  7. LoudMouth

    Seriously?!? Acts 4:32 (Acts of the Apostles that you so erroneously described.) "No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." Sounds like the disciples were pushing a little socialism, not a free market economy. Did you even pause to think about Jesus' reaction to the "free market" in the temple (John 2:13-16). That's right, he turned the tables over and "drove them all out." You prosperity Christians are the embodiment of evil. You're selfish and greedy and you're trying to make the weak minded believe that's how Jesus wants us to act. Don't forget Jesus' conversation with Peter. "From whom do the kings of earth collect duty and taxes, from their sons or strangers? From strangers and then the sons are exempt." Seems to me like Jesus had a very clear idea of how the world works. If we follow in his footsteps, we should be working to make the wealthiest in America pay their fair share in taxes. Billionaires with 1% tax rate. Good grief!!! Personal question to the author, where are you seeing all these people who do nothing and take so much from those of us who are working? All I see around me are people who work very hard and receive barely enough to put food on the table and to keep the electricity working. Where are the freeloaders? Even the man on the street begging is working at a living. It may not be one you approve of, but it is work. Stop driving your luxury car and learn to share you selfish baby!!!

    December 7, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  8. thegadfly

    What a load of hogwash! Jesus was a radical liberal. Jews didn't kill him, conservatives did.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  9. Fantasies

    Didn't Jesus occupy the temple and expel the money changers? I'd say that Jesus was the 1st Occupier.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  10. tamago sensei

    This is a perverse twisting of the Gospel. The most rudimentary examination debunks Mr. Perkins' exegesis and exposition.

    He says: "The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed." That's just not true. It's a tremendous leap unsupported by the text. Deriving that thesis from this passage would have gotten me failed out of any first year Greek class.

    CNN, never hire this joker again. Whatever his expertise, biblical exegesis isn't it. He literally doesn't know what he's talking about.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • mackyjoe

      Aparently, your Greek teacher punished students who did not agree with him. There are many way to interpret that parable and who's to say which is more valid. I see it as Christ telling his disciples to be good stewards of what he will leave them and use that to build his church.
      In case you didn't know, CNN prints stories like this to highlight the authors foibles and fire you up. Fox does the same thing using left wing nuts all the time. Focus on taking that emotional button away from CNN and they will lose their power over you.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • One7777777

      They keep using false prophets and attacking Christianity (yet promote islam). This parable had NOTHING to do with money – nothing!

      He was saying "multiply" the gifts I gave you, don't bury them in the ground!

      December 7, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  11. Census

    yeah sure to repeat this guy is the area president of A HATE GROUP!!!! SLC certified-

    December 7, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  12. Census

    President of the Family Research Council??...Isn't that a certified hate group...Yes it is. Maybe CNN should let the area leader of the Neo-Nazis write a piece too.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  13. boscobear

    He cleaned out theat temple pretty fast, so that makes him an occupier.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  14. Jim

    I'm no biblical scholar, but I know that you can spin just about anything in it. What about this story? "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all of them who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves." Is that an indictment of big banks and 1 percenters?

    December 7, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Grant

      No, because Jesus threw them out not because they were conducting free market business, but because they were doing it in His Father's house.

      December 7, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  15. west

    ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz...... nutcaze

    December 7, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  16. xdiesp

    Didn't he cleanse the temple from the merchants? That would be terrorism nowadays...

    December 7, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  17. cmcle

    Perkins says Jesus was not an occupier.

    I say Perkins is not a Christian.

    His farce of a claim, with his "spiritual" emphasis on money, in fact demonstrates that he's just the opposite. Christ's parable, according to Perkins, tells us that Jesus advocates taking from the poor and giving to the rich when the poor don't achieve an adequate return on investment. That's not only not Christian, it's anti-Christian.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Arnoii

      That is correct. The moral of the parable that you quote is that the last servant that actually buried the coin (not put it in a matress) did not make money for his master because his master was lazy and greedy. Jesus was saying that it is not always poplar to do the right thing (not enriching the already rich)! Re-read the passage.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  18. TG

    At Luke 19, Jesus gave an illustration that God's kingdom would not be operational for a long time, saying that "a certain man of noble birth traveled to a distant land to secure kingly power for himself and to return." (Luke 19:11) Hence, he gave to "ten slaves" a (sliver Greek) mina each, worth about $348.(each Greek mina weighted 10.9 troy oz. or 340 g @ $31.96 troy oz.)

    These were to "do business (Greek pragmateusasthe) till I come", not "occupy (Greek peripateo) till I come." The king's business involves publishing "the good news of the kingdom...in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations" before "the end " comes.(Matt 24:14) Apparently, 9 of the 10 slaves did "business" with their mina. However, one slave failed to be busy in the work that the king assigned him, and was severely reprimanded (Luke 19:20-22) and called "a good-for-nothing slave" by the king that then was thrown "into the darkness outside".(Matt 25:30)

    That God's kingdom will reign over the earth and not on it, can be seen from Hebrews 9:28 says that "the Christ was offered once for all time." Hence, Jesus will never appear visibly again, but his becoming king of God's kingdom would be invisible, unseen by human eyes. Revelation 5:10 says that those make up God's kingdom (of 144,001) are to be "priests to our God, and they are to rule over ("over", Greek epi, compare Rev 9:11) the earth." God's kingdom became operational in 1914.(Rev 6:2-8)

    December 7, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  19. Niall

    I'm probably not the first to say it, but:
    "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves."
    And
    "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

    December 7, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  20. Elroy

    CNN, you're joking, right?

    December 7, 2011 at 8:33 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.