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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. Erik

    This an egregiously flawed argument. On the one hand, Perkins seeks to contextualize the biblical meaning of "occupy" by referring to the meaning it had in Jesus' time. Ok, fine, that may be valid. But on the other hand, the whole argument is an entirely non-contextual and ahistorical attempt to show that Jesus was a defender of our modern system of free-market capitalism. This is not just illogical and without empirical foundation; anyone who knows anything about political and economic history knows this argument is quite simply absurd. Jesus could not have been an ardent supporter of an economic system that simply did not exist when Jesus lived. In this editorial, Perkins has revealed himself to be a right-wing ideologue who debases theology by making it serve his ideological ends.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • John D

      I agree entirely.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  2. Tomo Gigio

    Worst. Editorial. Ever. This is moronic drivel. You got my traffic this time, but I have a riddle for you:

    who's got two thumbs and is going to block CNN web content on his internet? THIS GUY!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      Dunno what you're so upset about. It's listed as an Opinion. Print and online media have always published opinions. Even this guy has a right to express his opinion. I may agree that he's a racist nut job, but wouldn't you rather know that?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Jason B.

      Good for you! In fact, we all should. This is some rediculous crap. Ban CNN after today. Next time you see some Pepsi sucking, McDonald's slamming fatty with a Christian symbol on the back of their mini-van. Flip them the hell off. It's fun. Believe me. Wait, I was wrong. Jesus loved a free-market and he loved fast-food, right? Sure...I'm just talking nonsense...but I thought that was the theme of the day with Ms. Perkins here.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Jason B.

      LEAF-Yes, it's an Opinion...but whose opinion is it? That's the question. Why don't we simply put the opinions of our neighborhood crack heads or local beer swiller down at the local tavern? Why is this man a credible Opinion provider on such a forum? What are his credentials? Why not put on the opinion of some snake preacher down in Appalachia? There are preachers down there that have 'studied' the bible for many years. So, I guess they are just as credible? Think.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  3. Matthew

    This is opinion at its worst. For shame, CNN... this is truly worthless swill from the head of a dangerous propaganda machine. tsk tsk tsk.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  4. Navy Officer

    This article is joke. The Christian Right today is the equivalent of the Sadducees and Pharisee who crucified Christ. It's sad that they don't see that.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  5. Jason B.

    Zeus, Apollo and Athena are all on the side of Occupy. They told me, last night, in a dream. So, there it is. You see, I have studied them for many, many years. So, I thiiiink I know what they want more than all of you folks. Zeus said he is a 'madman' about occupying things. He loves Occupy Wall Street. Why is this creep Perkins in the f'n news. This is front page news?? This tight-wad, suited-up fancy fruit with a cute part in his hair beleives he represents the word of a guy named Jesus...who by the accounts of the "bible" was a nomadic, simple, poor do-gooder with no desires for material fortune. Ugh,,,another ultra white, money grabbing dork telling people stories of the fantastical Jesus and his methods. How boring.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  6. john

    Obviously this author has not ventured near any of the Occupy Wall Street encampments ..its as if he has only watched the CNN and Fox channels. what they report is what he is saying. what is actually happening is not getting reported and thus shows in this article. Its as if he is writing about an orange and saying "this apple is so good".his statements completely reflect that his opinion of the people at the encampments are more important than the message that they movement is bringing forth.,.This author is part of the problem we face...antiquated thinking..

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  7. Casey

    'Jesus was a free-marketer'.... wow. Has this guy even taken the time to go and be around the people he judges so harshly?
    If I am correct, I think Jesus did. And did so without judgement, only love.

    'Never judge a man until you walk a mile in his skin.' - Atticus Finch, 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    December 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Kevin

    "If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it."
    - Stephen Colbert

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Jason B.

      No, no. no! Being a "Christ-ian" means being as ignorant as possible and throwing your hands up in the sky calling for magic powers to guide your every move. Then. when that turns out poorly...coming up with excuses, ugh ooops, I intended to say "meaning" that shows how Mr jesus and his Dad, God, were just screwing around with them and getting them ready for even greater folley in the future.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  9. John

    I hope that when Jesus returns, Mr Perkins will be suitably terrified to find himself firmly on the side of the goats. It's not too late, Mr Perkins – Jesus has absented himself from the Earth to give sinners like you a chance for redemption. Don't waste too much time , though...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  10. Error

    CNN Should be embarrassed to have this hate-filled human post such drivel. And on top of the main page too. CNN is slowly turning as reliable as Fox News. Sad.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  11. Dags

    "That's just, like, your opinion, man....."

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

      White Russians for all!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  12. cured76

    It was only a matter of time the right before would use Jesus with protecting their status quo. This "article" is so poorly thought out I shouldn't have even responded to it.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  13. Busted

    Wow, i can't believe anyone other than the spin zone at Faux giving Tony Perkins any credibility when it comes to christianity. This guy is no better than Bin Laden, he's exploited people's weaknesses by using religious toned rhetoric to push them towards his own political beliefs. It's always funny for an organization that believes all of earths resources should be used up as we see fit w/out regard to future generations while also saying gays shouldn't marry because of the threat on future generations. Honestly, shouldn't we care more about survivability like on clean air, water, and soil over what happens in the bed room.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  14. Lori

    Hmmmm........suddenly the "morally upright" have a problem with people standing up for whats right and standing up against greed and corruption. Interesting, isn't it, how they use scripture to validate whatever side it is they are on in any particular debate. Actually, their cover is starting to wear pretty thin. People where I live (a southern state) are starting to see through their falsehoods. This may help the Democratic party in the long run.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  15. flarnkingsgargle

    I thought Jesus wanted to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and shelter the homeless and help the needy in general. Guess I was mistaken.

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

    jesus was a communist. it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. he says things like this constantly, that rich people are naughty and don't go to heaven.

    and i'm not a big fan of jesus'. he says horrible things like telling slaves to obey their masters. but he was NOT a free market hero. from the ideals he expressed in the bible, jesus was a commie. this guy is looking for ways to justify his position. he's pounding the square peg through the round hole to make his point.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  17. McCain-in-4

    Jesus tossed over the Moneychanger's tables and ripped down the tapestries, and God alone shook the temples until the most holy-of-holies were exposed to public view. That doesn't sound remotely close to what Tony Perkins is proselytizing.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  18. GWB

    This article sure has gone nucular hasn't it?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  19. mattski

    Jesus would not have been a member of the Occupy movement, of course, because, after all, he was just a figment of someone's imagination...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  20. Patriot Awesome

    Even the devil can quote scripture for his own purpose.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:18 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.