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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. Eric

    This is exactly why we need separation of church and state. When Jesus says "turn the other cheek" right wingers say "Jesus supports the death penalty and war." When Jesus says "no rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven" right wingers say "Jesus was a free marketer and capitalist and wants you to be rich." Etc. - people can always twist religious texts to whatever they desire.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  2. Dana C

    CNN, why do you allow this stuff on your website?

    Are you trying to get down to Fox News level?

    December 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  3. Pyre

    To rephrase Colin's point, if Tony Perkins was right about Jesus being a free-marketer, the whole incident with the money-changers at the temple would *never have happened*. Jesus went far beyond "occupying" their place of business; he overturned the merchants' stalls and went after them personally, with violence. No "Prince of Peace" on *that* occasion! (As he said at another time, "I bring not peace but a sword.")

    Tony must have studied a different Bible from the rest of Christianity. Actually, this would explain his career.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  4. Old hippie

    Jesus is against OWS?!?
    That's disapointing, man. And to think I voted for him.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  5. R

    Jesus, if existed in past, do not exists now. Save and "ism" or Save a society. What would you prefer ?
    Save an "ism" = Free Marketer.
    Save a society = Occupier.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Jason

      WWWWHHHHAAAATTTT????

      December 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  6. Mike

    Jesus, Muhomad, The Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny all have the same thing in common. They are all made up fairy tails that have no business in politics!

    December 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  7. Gerry

    Good thing Jesus has Tony Perkins here on Earth to interpret his message! Don't want the message of peace of love to be confused with ACTUAL peace and love.

    Silly Tony, Jesus would throw your ugly butt out with the money changers. My interpretation of the new testament leads me to believe jesus would find you repugnant

    December 7, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  8. Brett

    Wow! Tony Perkins is the Anti-Christ. It all makes sense now.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  9. Jmedoom

    There is so much wrong with your theology, that you should be ashamed for twisting the Bible around. I agree that Jesus did not wish to establish his Kingdom on earth, but you might want to let the rest of your conservative brethren know that. Jesus did not get involved in the Roman politics of the day for a reason, Tony. It dirtied the message of the Gospel. Which is what you do every time you open your mouth in the name of "Christians." I put "Christians" in quotes because nothing your movement has ever promoted has ever demonstrated the message of compassion, forgiveness, sacrifice, and love illustrated by the life of Jesus on this earth. You will have to give an account to God one day of the thousands your turned away from him because of your constant lobbying, hate, and manipulation. The Son of God had nowhere to lay his head. He owned no possessions. Doesn't sound like a free marketer at all.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Gerry

      The old english term for occupy is to be occupied with business? Really!? where the f#$k did you happen to find the old enlish term and it's greek route? I can't seem to find it? Would you mind bending over because I'm sure you pulled that one from the same place you pull your "Spiritual Perspectives..."

      December 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  10. Dana

    Church- wake up!! We are to be a light on a hill- a light to this dark world. They did not know Him while He was here and it is no different today. Those in the world who willingly prefer to walk in blindness don't realize the One who can truly set us free. Love one another as Jesus has loved us. Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. We are here for a purpose and that is to glorify God with our life, how we treat one another by pointing the way to Him. Its not religion that saves you, its the realization of your need of a Savior, repentance and personal relationship with Jesus. This is reality- not fiction and not a fairytale. Old testement prophesy fortold of Jesus 700 years before his birth. (Please see Isaiah 7 and 8) His life is not a made up fairy tale. I know this for fact because I know Him and He knows me. Jesus saved my life and my marriage and I want you all to know that He loves you and that you matter so much. Peace be with you all- Maranatha!

    December 7, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Dana

      Isaiah 7 and 8

      December 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  11. lance corporal

    thank you for posting this article so I can see how universally hated this hateful mans twisted ideology is.....

    December 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  12. Colin

    What about the free market for moneychangers inside temples? There was no law against it. If Jesus found it disrespectful to his father, he should've lodged a complaint with his Roman senator. He was impinging on the liberty of the wrong people with his job-killing regulations. By closing down the moneychangers in his own temple, he was picking favorites by allowing moneychangers to continue to operate at other religious sites.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  13. atbrenner

    wow, so the parable of the talents is literally about the merits of investing money and making a profit!

    seriously, whatever you think of the occupy wall street movement, this is one of the most twisted, perverse interpretations of scripture I've seen. just imagine Jesus taking his disciples aside: "hey guys, I know there's a lot of controversy centered around this issue right now, but just to be clear: you are morally obligated to invest in high yield hedge funds, where possible. fyi, capitalism is great." it would be shocking if Jesus intended a different message by this parable...

    December 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  14. spellwight

    Oh, I get it! This is really bad fan-fiction! Just made stuff up based on the characters in published fiction.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  15. Ryan F.

    My question is how did this clown get so precise a Mina-to-US Dollar exchange rate ($225)?

    December 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  16. Peter Capobianco

    'But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,' faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

    'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'

    December 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Ryan F.

      Well played! Love that part. "You have laboured on it since – it is a long and ponderous chain!"

      December 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  17. Tim

    John 4:1

    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

    i.e. Tony Perkins

    I don't see Blessed are the rich!

    Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

    Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  18. Bandonwind

    No one knows what Jesus said when he was alive, because no one today was there and there is no written record. The Jesus fable was created years after the historical Jesus is thought to have died. There was news in the Orient at the time of Jesus' life that there was a rabblerouser in the mid-East, and it is believe that was Jesus. So I do believe in the historical Jesus, but his life's story is all made up by people who came after him. He number one followers during his life and for the next hundred years were women.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  19. Fitzy

    The Southern Poverty Law Center lists this group as a hate group.

    While I realize that you have a right to allow anyone to write whatever they want, I do suggest you consider who you let write opinion papers.

    Would you let the head of the KKK write an opinion piece?

    No?

    Then why this man?

    Everything he teaches in this opinion piece so so completely contrary to the ideas that Jesus preached, its saddening.

    Perkins also just lacks any kind of basic links with the facts. He doesn't even understand what OWS is about.

    Sure, maybe this works as some kind of strange twisted indictment of Woodstock, but even then it would be wrong.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Ronnie Pudding

      That it was on CNN's homepage was the most offensive part.

      Here's one man's reaction to the piece.

      http://collynmccoy.tumblr.com/post/13866353981/jesus-all-about-the-benjamin

      December 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  20. Bob P

    Its a parable! Jesus always spoke in parables. I am not sure why and neither did his disciples of his day. When they asked way he spoke in parables, his answer was "to hide the truth from the wise and reveal it to babes"! That is sort of a parable, too, Does that mean dumb people get it and the wise don't. Does the very wise Tony Perkins get the meaning of the parable of the talents...or does just about any six year old know that it is not right to take things away from kids who don't have much and give it to some kid who has almost everything. Some day I am going to ask Jesus what he meant and he will most likely tell me another parable. Its a Jewish teaching device that drives us fundamentalistic Christians nuts!.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:56 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.