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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. Honest Lee

    "Let us not declare that God is on our side, but let us ask – are we on God's side?"

    –Abraham Lincoln

    The Republican party is in serious need of revival.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  2. ohmo

    Oh WHO CARES. People need to stop assuming they know what Jesus would do about everything. It's stupid, annoying and probably blasphemous.

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

      The fallacy here is that everyone starts out with same opportunities. That's simply not true.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  3. VMC

    "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)
    Let me get this straight, did Jesus give welfare to the servants? Because if this is some defense of free market principles, then it sounds like you agree with the Occupy movement. Free market is all good as long as everyone gets an equal start (not just the opportunity to move up). Otherwise I think the story would have gone like this,
    "He called his ten servants, and gave 10 minas to some, 1 minas to others and no minas to the rest".

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

      Well, in the parable of the talents, the master does give each servant different amounts according to their respective abilities 10 talents to the first, 5 to the second and 1 to the third (1 talent= 60 mina). See Matthew 25: 14-30

      December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  4. HolyChrist

    Jesus says, "Interpret everything I say as you see fit."

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  5. Ron

    Tony Perkins has now embraced the role of Grima Wormtongue to the Evangelical community. One may only pray that some of them begin reading scripture again. If not, they will be gob-smacked come Judgement Day.
    1 Corinthians 13
    1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
    2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
    3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  6. Jason

    Anyone who goes to church will tell you that this is not a literal tale by Jesus Christ expousing the values of a free market economy. (None of his parables were literal – after all, they were PARABLES!) The currency given to the servants symbolizes the spiritual, material, intellectual, and situational resources we are given by God to go forth and do good works. The parable says that we are charged by the almighty with the means for – and the responsibility of – stewardship.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  7. GrogInOhio

    Sigh... what complete and absolute nonsense.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  8. EVIL

    I'VE SEEN TONY ON TV INTERVIEWS SEVERAL TIMES. HE SEEMED SOMEWHAT MODERATE.

    BUT THERE IS NO REASON FOR THIS.

    TAX RELIGION AND THIS COUNTRY COULD PAY OFF ALL DEBTS!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  9. Kris

    every one of us is responsible for the condition this country is in. in my opinion it's a sad state of affairs all the way around–from the protesters trashing the cities and disturbing the peace to the political pawns and elite. lets all take a good look at the dirty little greedy speck in our own eyes and stop wasting time pridefully pretending to know the answers. these comments themselves are sicking becasue they reflect nothing but finger pointing and the foolish prideful wisdom of the world. probably one or two comments posted here are worth their salt. comment threads are good for one thing–exposing the truth about us as citizens.

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

    Tony Perkins clearly demonstrates he has no idea what OWS is protesting. And CNN, like most media outlets, continues to disseminate misinformation regarding the protests, thereby clouding the real truth.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  11. Humanitari©

    CNN tries so desperately to get some rating by looking like fox news, we live downtown and we are well above the middle class but we support this movement in full and many TriBeca mothers we know do to, the current Bankstatorship that CNN wants to be the slave and propaganda machine for is DEAD
    shame on CNN, WE the people will prevail and old channels from the 80s are so old

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  12. CBinKY

    How presumptuous to tell us what Jesus would think... Gotta love those that twist scriptures to fit their needs. Just like how the writer "needs" his fancy suit, car, glamour shots, etc.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  13. Jeffrey Wm. Cotnoir

    That which the parable refers is faith, not money. When properly "invested", faith grows, spreads and becomes stronger. Faith kept to one's self remains stagnant and withers. If you want Jesus' opinion on the wealthy, see the camel/needle story. If you want to know Jesus opinion on the free market system, refer to what He did in the Temple market....He DID destroy, upend and throw them out of "His Father's House". If you wish to feed bad information to your readers, then by all means continue your misleading and misguded interpretations. Fools! Ye of little faith. Give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar. Give to God, what belongs to God (by the way....EVERYTHING belongs to God).

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • M A Childers

      Well said, Jeffrey!!!! I was going to use the same examples, but you said it much better than I ever could. I just love how the religious right supports the Wall Street Fat Cats and completely ignores the part about charity, etc. Thank you for your post.

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

    As someone who was unemployed for a year and a half I take deep offense at yet another moron who is under the impression I did not want to work. I could not find a job serving tables and I took every job I could scrubbing toilets and painting houses part-time. I did this with two graduate degrees. I am not too proud to work. I nearly lost my house and my sanity. Lose your job sir and see where it leads you. This is what is wrong with religeon. Morons everywhere use it to beat down anyone trying to fight the big guys to reclaim their power. Shame on you. You are a corporation in human form.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  15. Teamosil

    Just to be clear, the Family Research Council that the author works for is a right wing extremist hate organization.

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

    The writer here seems to forget he is relating an allegory, not direct commandments. Yes we are commanded to multiply the talents we have have (or minas) but I am sure the greater meaning is multiply the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we are given. This would be especially true in not hiding your light under a basket (putting your knowledge of the truth out there and allowing it to multiply)
    Do you think you will get a "bank check" of your financial assets on Judgement Day ? Really ? . To use Christ and the bible to justify capitalism (called free enterprise in this story) seems a bit far fetched to me. It's a decent system to grow up under, but I don't think I'm following Christ because I live in a capitalist society. We are supposed to be good stewards of our money and certainly not fall in love with it ('the love of money is the root of all evil). There are also examples of collective actions in the scriptures. This seems like another attempt to use the Bible to further one's political beliefs. I don't remember Christ advocating for any one party or person........ If you are really interested in Christ's teachings, check out http://www.bible-research.com

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  17. Bryan

    This guy is clueless. If Jesus walked into Wall Street, it would be a scene straight out of throwing the lenders from the temple. He must be a republican to even spout this nonsense with a straight face. Oh, by the way, wonder how much this guy makes a year. Wanna bet its much more than you or I?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  18. Bruce

    "railing against a free market system that rewards diligence"

    Holy crap. The whole point of OWS is that the "free market system" no longer rewards diligence like it once did. These people played by the rules, worked hard, studied hard, took out loans to pay for an education that everybody assured them was well worth the investment, and now they find out that all the promises of rewards for their diligence were empty and that the richest of the rich, many of whom inherited their money in the first place and never worked a day in their lives, get even richer while at the same time all the hard work that these people put, faithfully, into the "free market system," is for naught.

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

      Oh, and moreover, now the investments they made in their future, the loans they took out to pay for their post-high-school education, will torture them for several decades–and mercilously-so, because by law they can't even declare bankruptcy on school loans.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  19. Dan

    It's disgusting to see the words of the leader of a SLPC named hate group promoted on the front page of CNN as a viable opinion. Truly gutter journalism.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  20. Nazi Superman

    Can't we just exterminate the hippies?

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

      I don't think I like you very much.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:15 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.