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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 • My Take • Opinion

soundoff (3,372 Responses)
  1. Jason

    Yeah... so... the Occupy Movement is, in fact, an expression of the Free Market. And shame on Mr. Perkins assuming that people who are demonstrating are lazy bums who destroy public and private property.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Zalhanan

      But they have destroyed private and public property, that is a FACT. They have also cost MILLIONS in police bills. Lazy, not so much. OWS is NOT an expression of the Free Market and you have to be an Idiot to think so. Their end goal is more government regulation, more taxes, more control of wall street, take money from the rich give to the poor, more tax. That is about as Anti-Freemarket as you can get.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • JasonP

      Please. OWS is just people. That's all. Your brothers and sister, your friends and neighbors. Take your labels and stuff them where the sun don't shine.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Zalhanan

      Nice try at misdirection. You said they don't destroy property and are all about Free-markets and that is pure nonsense. Your response is that "they are just people" Well, of course they are just people. Just people that destroy property and are anti-free-market that is not an opinion, that is a FACT. No labels needed. Next time try using logic and reasoning instead of "I know you are abut what am I" tactics.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • rizzo

      Awww they destroyed MILLIONS in property? What about the rich who have caused BILLIONS to TRILLIONS worth of damage and then laughed all the way to the bank about it? Why don't the cops bust their heads in? Oh, that's right, because they're not 'dirty hippies' so anything bad they do is automatically excusable because they're rich, white and wear suits.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  2. Zalhanan

    What a fictional character would or would not do 2000 years after he lived is not a really good way to prove a point. How about we stick with OWS are 99% communists and socialists who are going after the wrong people and for some reason are angry about bailouts 4 years after they happened for some odd reason. And that reason might have something to do with the fact that their savior Obama is going to get crushed in 2012 unless they can place the blame for the economic problems of the country somewhere other than with him. Since "inherited from bush" is Ultra-Mega-Turbo played out they will just shift the blame to "fat-cats on wall street" which people are still willing to buy hook, line, and sinker. Sum it up, OWS are idiots and Jesus isn't real.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • rizzo

      Nope, nothing having to do with Obama losing in 2012 and everything about Obama and all other politicians being in the back pocket of the rich. Don't talk about what you don't know about tough guy.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  3. Jeff

    I thought speaking for jesus was blasphemy?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  4. David

    "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves." -Matthew, 7:15

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  5. srichey

    Nice. Scripture is a tool with an extremely narrow application, but even in the 21st century people still try to use it to encompass an extremely broad and deep culture.

    Go stir an ocean with a swizzle stick - you might have more luck.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Tim

    What about that time he multiplied those loaves and fishes to feed the hungry and poor. Sounds pretty socialist to me! Tony Perkins would twist words from his own grandparents' lips if it meant more money in his personal coffers. He has made a fortune off of leading people astray. I believe his scripture calls that a false prophet.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  7. Aaron

    While I certainly don't see Jesus supporting the movement, I'm appalled by the suggestion that he'd take the other side. Jesus certainly stressed hard work, but not for the sake of material wealth, the object of capitalism (more generally, materialism). Jesus saved some really choice words for rich people (Luke 18:24).

    We work for the sake of furthering God's kingdom. In the end, my belief is that Jesus would be saddened at the whole situation – the greed of the protesters and the greed of the people that they protest against.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  8. Mike

    I'm so tired of the Christian Right speaking for my savior Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn't care about politics. If my fellow Christians would quit running around scared to death of things that aren't even happening and starting putting their faith back where it belongs, in Jesus. Not politicians.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Patrick Williams

      Amen!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Jonathan Davis

      The same sort of reasoning was used to say that the bible justified slavery. Justified Segregation, Justified Lynchings.
      The same logic was used to justify denouncing and blackballing Americans as communists during the 50's.
      These type of folks read and remember all the bible but not that Jesus said: 'It is harder for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven that for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.'

      December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • W247

      2 Chronicles 7:14
      if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  9. ProperVillain

    Sidenote: the parable was about good works and the kindgdom of god, not a high five to any particular economic system. Anyone who has spent a month in church or some time in seminary would know this. Perkins is a total clown.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Mark in Atlanta

      Absolutely right. When Jesus said "I am about my father's business," he didn't mean making money. Nor did he congratulate the money changers in the temple on doing so well. What did he tell the rich man who asked how much of his wealth he must give up to win the kngdom? ALL OF IT. If we must put contemporary politcal and economic tags on Jesus, he is clearly a hell of a lot closer to a socialist than a free marketer. Perkins is indeed a clown.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  10. streetdude66

    In other words Jesus was a Republican and believed in a society of haves and have nots. Eviil middleclass people who bailout wall St, fight the wars, and get kicked int he teeth for it rather than be treated fairly, nothing but traitors. Amen brother

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  11. Steve

    I agree. Jesus hated poor people and should all of us!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  12. Lejaune

    So how much did Jesus get paid to be on the cross? Was it from the highest bidder?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  13. Gary

    This guy is a perfect example of a lot of what is wrong in this country today. To stoop to using the name of Jesus to justify a system built and totally corrupted by greed is disgusting to say the least.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  14. wangfeihong

    What kind of horrible joke is this guy trying to pull? He best be careful for the Lord shall strike him down for his blasphemy. These are the writings of Belial. May he burn in Hell.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  15. slewatha

    This dude is reaching!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  16. awaysaway

    Why do the OWS upset republicans so much? Most Americans are neutral and unexcited – but some republicans get all bent of shape. And now this character is bringing down the wrath of God on them – ha ha. Based on this fool's reaction I think the OWS are successful.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  17. Patti

    Outside of the bible there is no evidence of Jesus. But had there been a real Jesus he would see Tony Perkins as the true hypocrite he is.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Jeff

      Actually, Josephus wrote a history for the Romans that briefly mentions Jesus.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  18. Jo

    Isn't the Bible against usury? Something used over and over in a 'free market'?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  19. Gertrude

    How does this guy know that Jesus was a free marketer? He's making this stuff up based on his own beliefs. Tell him to SHUT UP and GO AWAY!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  20. JS

    FACT: Jesus is not real

    December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Pete

      Fact, that is your opinion

      December 6, 2011 at 3:34 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.