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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. rizzo

    Tony, Jesus said that there was a greater chance for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, so I think it's pretty clear who he would have supported here. You are indeed an awful, awful person.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  2. Maddog

    There is no way he actually believed in God. He wrote that article without fear of heavenly retribution.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  3. eve

    What does this ding dong know about what Jesus would have thought about this? He probably would've walked into wall street, overturned the tables and denounced those greedy money mongers. But that's just my opinion. I don't pretend to KNOW what anyone would do.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    That was a great explanation of the parable. It really does teach us that despite the economic hardships we're in, we have to make the best of it.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Gertrude

      Yeah right.

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

      and I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  5. ron

    Boy, talk about a hypocrite, this guy is why religion has gotten a bad name. It's the old "pick and choose" your passage to verify your viewpoint instead of looking at the bible as a whole to understand it's message. Many times in Mathews, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about getting food, or clothing, or housing because (God) would provide it. Jesus took a little from a few (the fish and bread), and fed the many. He never told them to get a job in order to eat. He never told them not to gather because they might destroy public property. He ordered his diisciples to leave all their earthly belongings and to follow him. How can this guy call himself a man of God? God himself must be crying at what these supposedly religious people have done to what he offered.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Franco Dunn

      You are so right Ron. The Family Research Council is a right wing group of Pseudo Christians. Why CNN is giving this hypocrite a forum is beyond me....er maybe not. They are probably kowtowing to their corporate masters.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • AC

      @ron, You are interpreting that passage wrong. Yes, Jesus said not to worry because God will provide but he didn't mean that food, clothing & shelter will magically fall from the sky. You have to be industrious, give an honest effort and God will give you your just reward. For instance, the birds do not starve or freeze to death because God has created a world that will feed & house them but they still have to catch their worms & build their nests.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  6. BB_Baker

    Judging anyone for anything is against what Jesus taught and this is judging!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  7. Gertrude

    Yeah, we know who you serve Tony Baloney, the almighty Dollar.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  8. Cleo

    This is stupid, stupid, stupid. People are suffering in this country and all jerks like this can do is argue about which side Jesus would support? Let's see: The greedy and fearful or the suffering and oppressed. Yes, I can see how this would be a difficult decision on Jesus' part.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  9. Cyg

    Moron Inc – Jesus was against greed, period. To say he 'would have been' against occupy is the EXACT kind of garbage I would expect the church to crank out, saying they represent Jesus and God, but in the end – representing only themselves, gold, and greed. If Jesus knew the crap that would happen in his name, he never would have claimed to be religious...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  10. What the what?

    Jesus would have been for or against this? Just when I think I have heard the most ridiculous statement, someone comes with something even more absurd. If there is anyone out there that is taking this article seiously I think you may want to get your head examined. This would be funny if it was an SNL skit, but it's not. Wow!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  11. John D

    It beggars the imagination to read something like this from the pen of a person who professes to be a Christian.

    Jesus instructed his followers to sell what they own, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him, taking no thought for the morrow.
    Obviously, this is bad economics.
    ...But the Christian faith is not an economic system.

    It's not open to a Christian to ignore the preponderance of what Jesus said in favour of a conveniently allegorical reading single parable which is related in different form in the two Gospels in which it appears.

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

    Leave the Lord out of this non-sense. To begin with if Americans remember their roots and didn't let go their first Love, this situation will never get this far. If they think this situation is bad, they need to wait for what is coming because it is not going to get better as long Americans remain wicked and fail to repent. Immorality will spread like a disease and the economy will collapse even further. This situation will spread around the globe since human love a global environment, global industry and the economy will collapse and make way for a one world government which will be the worst thing men has ever experience.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  13. reality check

    I know JC, and he says that he supports OWS. He told me this. You must believe me or you will not go to heaven.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  14. Matt

    Mr. Tony Perkins is a hate monger that uses and abuses religion to hide behind a veil of "moral superiority". His organization has funded research on getting discrimination signed into law, for the past 30-something years. Also, I suppose Jesus called him and told him that he favored a "free market system". That, or like every other religious hate monger, he has cherry-picked the Bible to find parables that support his view, and claims that his view is thus supported by God. What an ignorant bigot.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  15. BET6312

    What cares what Jesus would think? This is not related to anything about Jesus. I dont think he would agree with a few people conspiring to make millions off Americans no matter what the price is.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  16. jwas1914

    To: Mr. Tony Perkins and the Public

    If we analyze Luke 19:11 it says that this was an illustration. Also Jesus was never in the market of business but in the market of his Father’s kingdom. If we scrutinize Jesus’ history; he was not a rich man and did not care to be one; so it does not make sense how a man like Jesus would encourage others to live a rich successful life when he did not have one. (Matthew 8:20) This means that this article has completely misrepresented the illustration used in Luke 19 in reference to the “mina” and its meaning.

    This period of Christ’s presence involved continued intense Kingdom-preaching activity, including the declaration of God’s judgments against the wicked, and overseeing this work was included in the authority entrusted to the “good slave.” The ten slaves in the initial fulfillment represent Jesus’ early disciples. In an enlarged application, they picture all who are prospective heirs with him in the heavenly Kingdom. The silver minas are valuable pieces of money, each amounting to about three months’ wages for an agricultural worker. But what do the minas represent? And what kind of business are the slaves to do with them? The minas represent assets that spirit-begotten disciples could make use of in producing more heirs of the heavenly Kingdom until Jesus’ coming as King in the promised Kingdom. After his resurrection and appearance to his disciples, he gave them the symbolic minas for making more disciples and thus adding to the Kingdom-of-heaven class.

    The slave with ten minas pictures a class, or group, of disciples from Pentecost 33 C.E. until now that includes the apostles. The slave that gained five minas also represents a group during the same time period that, according to their opportunities and abilities, increase their king’s assets on earth. Both groups zealously preach the good news, and as a result, many righthearted ones become Christians. Nine of the slaves did successful business and increased their holdings. For the wicked slave, loss of the symbolic mina means loss of a place in the heavenly Kingdom. Yes, he loses the privilege of ruling, as it were, over ten cities or five cities. Note, too, that the slave is not pronounced wicked for any badness he does but, rather, for failing to work for the increase of the wealth of his master’s kingdom.

    I encourage everyone reading this article to please read your Bible daily.

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

      Thank You @jwas1914.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  17. job218

    Tony Perkins dosen't know squat about Jesus or the Occupy movement! I will always remember his name and the "Family Research Council" as a Fraud. I am very disappointed that CNN would lower there standards and print this story! Get with it CNN!

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

    I love how this CNN guy protects the very BANKSTATORSHIP that hired him

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

    Um, you can cherry-pick verses to try to distort a Scriptural message quite easily. But the true test of such interpretation is looking for consistency. The Scriptures simply do not endorse a particular economic system, and certainly not capitalism.

    Jesus also said "blessed are the impoverished," for they shall be given much wealth. Based on your style of reading the Bible, this verse is endorsing a welfare state. But you and I both know that the message is intended to be spiritual, not economic.

    Jesus spent so much time criticizing the rich, the corporations of his day, the religious elite, and the reverence of money...so much time that it is clear he wasn't pushing for capitalism. American Exceptionalism should not be confused with the teachings of Jesus – so stop doing it, conservative American Christians. Jesus stopped an execution, praised the poor, instructed his disciples to give to the poor, criticized the reverence of money ("mammon", as many bibles today still refuse to use the actual word "money")...he said that avoiding Hell was very difficult to do when you are rich, and he also (in Matthew 25:31-46) stated that admission to Heaven would be reserved to those who give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the cold, make visits to the sick, and make visits to the imprisoned. He states that Hell will be the destination for those who do NOT do these things. These principles of living do not harmoniously mesh with ANY particular economic system except Communism...but you won't hear that from a Republican Christian anytime soon.

    So in closing, Mr. Perkins – while I am entertained by your clumsy attempt to describe our Saviour as a banker's god, the truth is Jesus was so much more than that characterization. He himself summed up all of the laws of God in two all-important rules: love God with all of your heart, and love other people. Good luck looking for a similar message anywhere inside the New York Stock Exchange right now.

    P.S. Doesn't Wall Street's bull statue, which is heavily protected right now by NYPD, even SLIGHTLY concern you? What was that object the Israelites started worshiping in the book of Exodus when Moses came down the mountain? Wasn't it...a statue of a cow? Hmmm....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  20. Redonkulon

    The occupiers are not looking for a free handout, though apparently Jesus did give out $250 to his followers.

    Just because The Occupy Wal Street group is using the word Occupy, they obviously don't mean it in this particular biblical sense. They are there to demonstrate their feelings of being oppressed by the greed of the corporate world. The free market does not necessitate the unmitigated quest for all profit. This is simply another Right wing attempt to mince words (Occupy) and the meanings of those words until what they are saying seems pure and right while all who oppose them are deemed as being immoral, wrong or stupid.

    In Biblical times, though there were financial transactions for sure, most of what they did was pay for useful goods and or services, not use complex algorithms to squeeze the producers and the consumers of every last penny that they earned.

    The Occupy Wall Street group is demonstrating to take the corporate interests out of politics, where they, hand-in-hand with the politicians, shape policies which make their own positions more resolute all the while manipulating, illegally, the law and their books all in the name of profit and greed.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:09 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.