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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. Mark

    Sooo, Jesus didn't want us to clothe the poor, heal the sick, or feed the hungry? Jesus favored the rich over the poor? Huh? Maybe Tony didn't read these parts of the bible.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      It's never a simple thing to try and apply 20th/21st century political concepts to a person of 2,000 years ago. It's actually a mistake to try.
      Jesus was liberal, in that he wanted us to help one another; feed the poor, the widows and the ones down on their luck.
      But he was also a conservative when it came to aspects of religion and that he wanted ppl to do good work and not stand by while others do that work.
      Jesus was pro-monarchy....in that God was king and ruler of all. He did not believe in any form of democracy or republic.
      Jesus was pro-choice. In that he felt that everyone had personal choices that they alone need to make. Sure they could be right or wrong in their choices but it was their choice to make.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  2. Sue

    Tony isn't a man that follows Christ. He's a Christian in name only. A true follower of Christ becomes like Christ. Whom you worship and follow is what you resemble. Looks and acts more like a CEO than a Christ follower.He licks the boots of corporations and craves power and influence. Hypocrite.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • ReasonSeason

      I was honestly sad when I read this comment. How quick we all are to condemn!

      December 6, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  3. Clifford S

    Even when faced with the truth, you guys have to twist it.
    These people sleeping in the streets are "Idle" and doing nothing for the good of anyone

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  4. You must be joking

    We do not have a "free market". When tax breaks are given to corporations, markets subsidized with taxpayer money, and Wall Street writing the laws congress passes, there is no "free market".

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • George

      You're right, we don't have a free market. Corporations and individuals are burdened with an impossible load of regulations, mandates, taxes, etc. We need true laissez-faire policies. Nobody knows what's best for business than business. Get government away from business.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  5. JakeDog

    Isn't this group listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center? I get a lot of mail from these overzealous nut bag. I get the feeling that if this were another country I would be told to wear a beard and cover my wife or else. I think Jesus would be behind thier message, share with those around you and do not gather more than you can use. that 's the message I got from Mass last sunday. Not take as much as you can and forget everyone else.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  6. RichardSRussell

    If Tony Perkins said the Sun rose in the east, I'd out tomoro at dawn with a compass in my hand.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  7. Craig

    Well, setting aside the traditional statement that you can find something in the Bible to support anything, let's look at Jesus a bit more realistically.

    First, he clearly had some issues with the "money changers" so he wasn't adverse to taking action when he saw social problems that others ignored. He was also, obviously, willing to take on the prevailing systems of the day, even to the point of starting a new religion, so he wasn't quite so Laissez-faire as he's presented here. He was also accepting of everyone, including those who were considered social outcasts...so the recent attacks on the LGBTQ community certainly wouldn't have been his style.

    Too bad current day Christian religion has almost nothing to do with what Jesus was teaching. I doubt Jesus would much like the church that's been created in his name. In fact, I think he'd be truly embarrassed.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  8. MyGodIs

    The parable is not about money or doing nothing that doesn't get you anywhere.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  9. Nare

    Jesus would oppose Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council.

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

      Why would Jesus oppose those who uphold morality?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  10. sally

    What a load of drivel this man writes. He obviously represents the entrenched, the wealthy, and the have's, the people who could care less about individual poverty as long as they make their bundle of gold. It is utterly offensive to speak for Jesus.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  11. John Sweet

    This guy is an idiot and an evil shark who uses Jesus to push his corporate ideals. Jesus was a socialist.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  12. Patrick Williams

    That is the most twisted eisegesis someone can do. Based on his interpretatioin of the parable, Donald Trump should be called St. Trump!

    Jeus Himself said that "wisdom is justified by her children" meaning that people will find ways to support and justify what they believe – he was right and here is a good example of it!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  13. Christian Taliban

    Question for Republican so-called "Christians"

    When Jesus Christ himself said "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.", do you think he was confused? Do you think he was wrong? Or do you think the apostle that quoted him misheard him? Just wondering.

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

      Interesting that you would take that out of context. I assume your statement is that rich people can't enter heaven. His statement followed an incident where a rich man turned down a request from Jesus to sell all his possesions. His disciples interpreted that statement to mean that no one then could enter heaven. Many people then considered wealth as a sign of Gods favor. Jesus then replied that with man it is imposible but with God everything is possible. So we learn from this that all of us need God to enter heaven. It is not a statement that rich people can't enter heaven. Although I would agree that it is more difficult for a rich person to enter as it is hard to justify the hoarding of wealth as other parables of Jesus point out.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  14. Danko Ramone

    Jesus wept.

    Why? Because this clown calls himself a Christian, when he is the wolf in sheep's clothes.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  15. Amaathya

    Corporations buying politicians is not a Free Market . Its a Corporate Communism, . In the long run . It destroys all the small businesses or make the small businesses slaves of the bigger corporations. e.g If Walmart can sell vegetables at half price, why would you go to a local farmer..hence the local farmer is forced to sell his vegetables at less profit to walmart, . Infact CNN too was super quiet when the occupy movement started , Cant believe I used to think CNN is one of the few websites keeping it real. This article is a testimony to the fact that CNN is not a free press. It too is controlled by by Corporations.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  16. tommy jonq

    i'm pretty darned sure Jesus occupied the temple and threw the moneychangers out of it. what kind of idiot thinks christians haven't read their bibles??????????????

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  17. DONNIE

    As I recall there was also another "parable" in the Bible and it goes smething like this – "that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven"

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

      Amen

      December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  18. idiotkiller

    wait, this is the same Jesus who upended the marketplace in the Temple because of the avarice of men? the same Jesus who split loaves of bread and fish to share (OH NO COMMUNIST!) with hundreds of people? the same Jesus who promoted the Good Samaritan?

    i've got no problem with Christianity. it's the people calling themselves "Christians", like the author of this piece, who seem misguided and dead set on crushing people's rights and livelihoods.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  19. Me

    Why is that when people protest for their rights in other countries Americans are beyhnd them ... but when Americans protest for thier own rights, those same Americans that were behind the protesting abroad, see them as dirty and lazy???? I don't get it... Is this countrly really that self absorbed and in that much of a state of denial. what the hell is this guy saying "Jesus would not occupy?!" are you serious, He and John the Baptist would be the first ones to sign up....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  20. Jesus

    Of course he's in favor of the free market system. How else can one justify the lavish life style these crazy religious people live. Look it up Joel Olsteen lives in a 20+ million dollar, not home, mansion. When did Christ live in a single dwelling, let alone a mansion? He did not, he traveled to spread the word.

    These guys are hypocrites read Matthew 20:12 "Jesus entered into the temple of God, and drove out all of those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers' tables and the seats of those who sold the doves."

    If Christ were to visit these megachurches he would be fuming over how much money these hypocrites make off of his name where if it were him, he would not charge a single cent.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:01 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.