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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. Leo

    I'm sure he wouldn't look much like you Tony Perkins! Wearing a suit, shaved and defending capitalism. And either you have some trouble understanding the parable or you just twist it to your convenience, which would be disgusting, but I'm sure you're not doing that ....

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  2. Jim

    While I certainly do not agree with the "OWS" thing, it is obvious that in the parable Jesus was talking about spiritual matters, not free markets or capitalism. I just hate how everything in the bible is taken literally when it suits the purpose at hand, and taken as a euphemism when that supports someones argument. Just stupid. Never mind the sheer arrogance it takes to claim to know what Jesus would or would not do lol

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  3. Stop Freeloading And Get A Life

    Yeah Matt – I do know what Jesus thought because it's written down. What part of those paragraphs I quoted isn't plain to you? That's the problem with liberals. They can't accept the Word at face value. They need to twist plain words to their own liking and abhorrent lifestyle.

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

      So, when Jesus instructs his followers to sell what they own and give it to the poor... I suppose you're taking THAT at face value?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Sam

      ...that's exactly what you're doing...

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

      You believe a book that was changed hundreds of times? those words you read are fabricated. the words jesus preached are lost in time and can only be found the day you see him or her. if you belive what you see then i'm sorry but you've fallen.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • cmkc

      Look in the mirror. Man translated the Word, man skews the word, man misinterprets the word. You are arrogant if you think you know the thoughts of the Lord.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Ryan F.

      You urgently need to reread the Gospels.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  4. BeyondThePicture

    how can any one tell what and who jesus was.....this article is full of it, you twist a story to make your mind feel at ease. dont talk about religion like its politics. you may have victory on earth and if feels good now but you wait til that time comes you will be at the mercy of our lord.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  5. David

    Any other KKK allies you want to take opinion articles from?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  6. us1776

    Who is this guy kidding?

    Jesus would have been first in line to be an occupier.

    Jesus was the one who threw the money changers (bankers) out of the temple !!

    .

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  7. Slag

    Really CNN, really?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  8. noway

    CNN is NOT AMERICAN but COMMUNIST.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • us1776

      noway, you wouldn't know a communist if one fell out of the sky and hit you.

      .

      December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      I gotta agree with 1776. True communism believes all should be equal – equally poor but at least equal. True communism does not inspire greed.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  9. cmkc

    How sad that he uses Jesus to villify the OWS movement. He glibly discounts OWS - "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?" You miss the point; rather, you choose not to even find out what the real point is. I'm sure in his world, Jesus would be for trashing our planet as part of the free market too. Our free market has no morals left to be guided by and "occasional abuse" is not the problem - it is pervasive.

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

    This guy is right. Jesus clearly would be a democan-republicrat! He would love drone bombs, collateral damage, and blood for oil, and the last thing Jesus would be concerned about is the common person. He is a wealthy person's God!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  11. Quid Malmborg

    Jesus wasn't much of a carpenter either apparently.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Afika

      Thanks ladies.One cmmeont to those who would use my list as a jumping-off point: check with me before you try it. Just because I've read it doesn't mean I'd necessarily recommend it. Even if it's a part of a series, and I've read the whole series, don't go by that. I'm a bit OCD. I may not like something about the books, but I'm compelled to tough it out anyway for some reason. Like watching a train wreck, you know? No reason for you to go through it, though.

      April 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  12. gill

    This guy, and those like him, are the reason that Christianity is on the decline.
    How can anyone read this article and not see that this man is morally bankrupt and possesses a corrupt soul??

    "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."

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

    I think this is the very definition of a straw man argument...

    the OWS peeps are not anti-capitalist... they are anti corruption... which actually fits in with this since, within this free market idea, corruption is the force that counters the free market and weakens it. The more corrupt the connection between public and private space, or the more state-like private space becomes, the more the free market breaks down and becomes functionally equivalent to private communism.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  14. SoIndianaGuy

    Let's see: Perkins is Baptist, a group not known for being too concerned about the original Greek except when it serves their purposes. He went to Jerry Falwell U. in Virginia. The political campaign that Perkins was managing in 1996 was fined $3000 for paying KKK Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list [must have been some list] and then trying to hide the fact by making the payment through a third party. Yeah, a great sense of ethics; we should listen to him on morality in business.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  15. Jared

    According to Acts, the believers held everything in common and even sold property so that the money could be used to help the needy. Meaning, the wealthy gave up possessions so the poor could not be in need.

    Jesus Himself told them to pay the taxes that are due.

    I'm not a fan of many of the things the occupy movement seems to be about, but in this respect, Jesus was an occupier. Try again.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      He was speaking that to the church; His followers, not the world at large. There is a difference. Try again.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Jared

      If you are going to invoke Jesus' name on something then you must be trying to speak to that same church.

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

      no one can say what jesus did... we wernt there. im so sick of people praiseing jesus in unknown words the church system is messed up. theres one lesson that should be learned from religion, come together as one stop the greed nothing should have a set price. make sacrifices help people out.......

      December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  16. KT

    That shows how bibically stupid people are. Didn't Jesus whip the thieves out of the synogod (misspelled)? They were ripping the people off in the house of prayer of all places. Just like the 1% are ripping us off today. So, no Jesus probably wouldn't be an occupier, He would go in and whip the hell out of them.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  17. Ryan F.

    Jesus chose the "Free Market"??? This is a ludicrous misinterpretation.

    "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back." Luke 6:30

    "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Matthew 5:42

    "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he
    does not resist you." James 5:1-6

    "And he answered them, 'Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.'” Luke 3:11

    "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort." Luke 6:24

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

      It beggars the imagination to read something like this editorial 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 3:14 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      Thanks, Ryan.

      This article is one of the most shameless examples where the Word of God is twisted to justify the actions of the uber rich.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  18. JustEddie

    Family Research Council = Autocratic Front

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  19. Tom

    Jesus the neo-liberal avocate of free market economy. Thats the weirdest thing
    I ever read.
    Did Muroch secretly buy CNN? Or why else is CNN granting right-wing psychos a stage?

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

      It's pretty pathetic to watch the Christian right try to set this ONE parable (which, incidentally, does not even clearly support their position) against the entire weight of the rest of the canon.

      If Perkins had better material, he'd have gone to that first.
      This is it. It's the best he can do.

      It's staggering that a person expressing the beliefs conveyed in this editorial would have the gall to call himself a Christian.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  20. Jim

    Has Mr. Perkins sold all that he has and given to the poor, as Jesus directed (Matthew 19:21)? I suspect not.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:10 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.