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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. Nobody N. Particular

    Mr Perkins is clueless, Jesus would have recognized that the true wealth that has be moving about has nothing to due with hard working successful people, but more to do with manipulation of markets (stocks, bonds, and currency) and having special access to the government and law creation. Mr. Perkins seems to ignore the parallels between the corruption of the temple in Christ's time, and the corruption of the financial system, both based on the same sin, Greed. Jesus would certainly side with those who are powerless against those who use their power to further their own wealth and power. Also, I would remind Mr Perkins, when God send the next messiah, he will be a Lion and not a Sheep, like Jesus... so be forewarned.

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

    What a load of CRAP. Who was it who overturned the money-changers tables in the temple?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • joco

      That was in his house...not on Wall St... He never protested a business.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  3. JayBee

    What a joke... "This is what Jesus would want"

    You realize that EVERYONE interprets the Old Books differently, and EVERYONE says they know how God wants us to act. Common sense proves that religion must be MAN MAD. It was created by humans to control other humans, and give us a safe feeling of understanding to the mysteries of life, which we REALLY don't know.

    But where has religion actually got us? Look at the middle east. Look at Africa. Look at America for GOD's sake!

    Don't you get it? No one has or ever will speak for God. But people will continue to claim it, and stupid people will continue to believe it.

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

    I find it curious that Mr. Perkins sited a Parable that few have ever heard of to make his point when there are a few statements from Jesus himself that would suggest the opposite. Didn't Jesus throw all the bankers out of the Temple due to their coruption? Wasn't it Jesus that said, "Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's, Give to God what is God's" when referring to money and specifically taxes?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  5. Walter Edwards

    Isn't this the same Tony Perkins of the Family Research council who awarded the 100% True Blue pro-family rating to Republican Rep. Joe Walsh IL., who owes $117,000.00 in unpaid child support to his kids. What a joke.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  6. Tom

    I would remind you that the Bible COMMANDS the rich to be generous (1 Tim 6:18 "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  7. Gracko

    Jesus may not have been an occupier, but He certainly wouldn't have been a the type of person that would have caused the need to create the Occupy movement in the first place.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  8. vel

    and what's even more hilarious that Luke 19 is one of those parable that isnt' mentioned much, unless under duress. You know why? Because it ends with JC saying that those who do not want him as king should be brought before him and murdered "26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’” I guess either Perkins is for this, or really really hopes no one reads this part.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  9. Honest Lee

    “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 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.”
    Matthew 19:23-24

    Mr. Perkins, I suspect that the occupiers of Wall Street are far more Christ-like than the workers in the towers.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • joco

      There are rich men in heaven...

      December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  10. ART

    Tony Perkins is a republican hack with the moral authority of a dead pig

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  11. Stephen Fuller

    It is easy to use such instructions for one's own purpose. Jesus' instruction was clear. In today's terms he was telling his disciples not to bury their heads in the sand and wait for his return, but to go out and do his work. To state this parable teaches against the opposition of Wall Street is not only a stretch of truth but beyond any validity of what Jesus taught. Jesus was one of the greatest protestors of all ages. We are talking about the Jesus who went into the temple with anger and threw out the money changers. Tony Perkins-you cannot possibly be somehow advising this very parable meant for folks to work in Wall Street and not protest the establishment–do you? For real?—April 1 is next year brother. This is probably a column you should have had a delay before you posted. Like those bad emails we all send and can’t take back.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  12. Matt in CA

    CNN: The Family Reseach Council has been given a hate group designation by The Southern Poverty Law Center. This designation was also bestowed on groups like the Knights of the Ku Klux Clan, The Nation of Islam and MassResistance. Why are you providing air time to some hate groups and not providing a forum for others? This shows editorial inconsistency and weakness of content.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • pat carr

      that's true! i saw "family research council" and discarded the rest. why are they giving time to such a group?

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

      When we don't like the message, let's attack the messenger. Let's discredit them with whatever it takes, lie's etc.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  13. Me

    WWJD..... ?????? JWO... JESUS WOULD OCCUPY!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  14. Velvetdog

    This is one of the most ridiculous articles CNN has carried. Mr. Perkins and the rest of his so called Family Research Council are not only bias self centered right wing hypocrites, but they are no authority on anything let alone Jesus and the OWS movement.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  15. Dan Brown from NOLA

    Let's leave our Friend out of this mess, shall we? In my experience, anybody who claims Jesus is on their side of some ideological schism is usually full of crap.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  16. jpmorr04

    So why is everything in the parable a "stand-in" for something but the money? Isn't the money "spreading the message of Jesus?" Everyone was given the same amount before Jesus left, and those that use and spread the message will be rewarded more upon His return. By not using the money (AKA God's message), there will be no reward later.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  17. mike

    what a retarded point of view... he must be rich and a conservative republitard, disgusting!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • joco

      Please share the "correct" point of view, because you obviously have it.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  18. the_dude

    I have never seen so many "North Face" jackets gathered in one place.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  19. Michael

    I am a self described liberal but always willing to listen to other opinions. I read the headline of this article and it intrigued me. My visceral feelings were how could this be? Jesus, the man who took loaves of bread and wine and dispensed them for no renumeration, was a free marketer? If Jesus were alive today he would have the right wing asking for his head because he was dispensing food without a permit, he did not have an alcohol license and he was eating into cherished business owners who were only trying to make an "honest" profit until this hippie came around and undermined their business. Moreover, he looked like he never bathed. Mr. Perkins should disengage from any intellectual conversations before he hurts himself.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Morgan

      Well said. This guy elevates himself to a pulpit and tries to make us think Jesus put material possessions over mankind? This guy is the devil, wrapped in a flag and clutching the bible.

      Then again, compared to the other wealthy elitists in the FRC, he's almost liberal in his views.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  20. Jesse from KC

    I can appreciate both the authors view-point and interpretation, as well as CNN's willingness to post something that is significantly right-of-center from a political stance where they typically lean slightly left-of-center.

    That being said, this really is nothing but drivel. He even SAYS in this that those who have nothing will have what they do have taken away. That's what is happening now.

    I'm not a religious man, but perhaps, if I were, I would see society as it stands, read these passages in the bible, and think "Wow, what he did then is happening now... perhaps the end times truly are coming?"

    Anyways, it was an interesting read even if it was malarky. Thanks CNN.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:06 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.