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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. Rosslaw

    There's a very simple explanation for this. Perkins actually does the bidding of Satan. Everything clear now?

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

    People wander what the hell is wrong with America today. Just look at what the Anti Christ religion preaches. I'm not a religious person but, I will guarantee you that Jesus was crucified by greedy Republican Jews. The money changers of the time. After all isn't that why the right wing wants to re-right the bible? Because they don't want God to care for people just money. The world wanders what the hell is wrong with America just look at the religion here.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  3. Paul

    I am so tired of greedy corporate fanboys using Jesus as an ad for free market business models. Jesus was referring to faith not money and talking about the business of the kingdom not the lust for money, but yes he was using the mundane (money) to speak of higher matters. The Christian that went out to build slave labor camps in China and make a boatload of cash was in for a surprise on judgement day. I work, I have a job, I protest the corporate greed that is running this country and am the enemy of those who would belittle protest, because you sir are demeaning the voice of the people and the true power of the United States. Please do no use the name of my Lord to further your cause. How did the greediest faction of US political power hijack Christians into thinking right wing fiscal conservatism and corporate greed are positive qualities to Christ? Pablum like this article that knows and speaks nothing of truth or God or Charity. Christ was not wealthy he did not desire wealth nor acquire wealth. What he had he gave away unto his life, what he ask of us is to take up our cross and follow him. What he commanded of his disciples was to take nothing but their sandals and go and spread the word. What he rewards is charity, a drink of water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry. DO believe Him.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • MumsToo

      "In God We Trust" is on nearly every piece of our money. At least they're being honest about in what they are putting their faith... the almighty dollar.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  4. dewrober

    This is pathetic CNN...how dare you put this on your front page. I am switching to HuffPo for good. These Occupiers are not sitting back doing nothing; they are camping out in sometimes freezing weather in order to speak for themselves when none of our elected officials will.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  5. WC

    Jesus would have instead opposed Tony Perkins and the Fascist Research Council.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • MumsToo

      Where's the LIKE or AGREE button when you need one?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  6. strangeronfire

    Tony...you, sir, are an idiot. religion has NO place in this argument. It would be just as relevant if i were to say "Santa Claus would have been a Republican" or that the "Tooth Fairy" would have joined the occupy movement.

    the point of Occupy is the fact that there is such a gap, and at this point an un-closeable gap, between the super wealthy and the poor. This is not good for ANY economy whether free market based, or based on socialist ideas. the point is, something has to change. employment rates have nothing to do with this argument either. They are just as relevant as the religious argument.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  7. MumsToo

    Family Research Council = EVIL

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  8. Chuck

    So it looks like people have poked holes in the argument here already, but what about the fact that all ten servants started out with the same opportunities? Clearly, that's not the case in real life and thus renders Tony Perkins's premise irrelevant.

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

    Is it just me or does connecting God to either occupy wall street or free-market capitalism (though I would admit his stance on money changers seems like a gray area there) seem belittling to the concept of an Omnipresent, Omniscient Supreme Being? If God is all things and perceives all things simultaneously, you really think he would be worried about a bunch of kids sleeping in a park? Or trade regulations? Wouldn't those ideas seem incomprehensibly trivial to such a thing? This is like saying, "Jesus would have been a Red Sox fan, and would have looked down upon the Yankees." Lazy, shameless political appropriation of religion.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Christopher Adam Kaiser

      Haha it does. The general principle here and everywhere in the mainstream media is to dumb us down. Sign off this website. Actually your computer. I'm going to go read "The Creature from Jekyl Island". It's about the Federal Reserve Bank.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  10. Christopher Adam Kaiser

    Wasn't there some story about Jesus forcing some tax collectors out of a temple? He also occupied caves, streets, and many places. It is true: If this guy is any representation of what the collective consciousness believes about Jesus, then we are truly in hell. Either way, the military/industrial complex and all of its ramifications can only exist with our apathy.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Christopher Adam Kaiser

      And I am an agnostic.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  11. Peter M.

    He is very obviously mistaking the literal meaning of the parables he cited for their figurative meaning.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  12. pelegrim

    Really, you actually spent time and energy writing this? What is the point of bringing religion into real issues?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  13. Ronald4231

    "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" – Jesus

    As you can see by the quote above, Jesus was Mr. Capitalist. The poor were nothing but lazy and the rich should be first in line to enter the gates of heaven.

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

    there is no way Jesus would have supported the free market. Idk if the free marketers have ever read the bible, but he wasn't too fond of the rich and the higher ups, as they tended to be more filled with deceit and hypocrisy.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  15. GMD4219

    The author is the proverbial wolf in sheeps clothing. The parable of the tealents is shown again and again to refer, not to captialistic social structure but rather as refering to spiritual fruits, which would imply such things as generosity, love and compassion. I suspect he lacks all 3. I am no big fan of OWS but less a fan of those who corrupt the word of God for political gain. This guy needs forgiveness.

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

    I must say this is the stupidest article I've ever read on CNN.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  17. felix_in_Mass

    Jesus would also, most certainly, vote Republican, drive a Dodge Ram Super Duty and breed and train purebred German Short-haired Pointers for bird hunting.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  18. GianCarlo

    Well just another greedy Republican trying to justify his greed and how to much is never enough. Give us a break you fake prophet, were not stupid. The occupiers are not against the free market, they are against the fraud in which you use the free market to gain your wealth.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Not stupid, huh????

      @GianCarlo

      "Give us a break you fake prophet, were not stupid"

      were = incorrect
      we're = correct

      sounds stupid to me....

      December 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  19. psat

    Perkins should be ashamed. Lets remember that Jesus led a movement of his own much like this. Why do you think they crusified him. The banks are the Roman Empire in this case. I guess that would make Judas. Betrayer of his faith.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Bob

      Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be God, not because he was leading a movement. The Romans weren't the ones that had a problem with Him, it was the religious establishment that preferred their rules over their God.

      Jesus wasn't a capitalist or a socialist. He commanded us to care for the poor and the least of these, but He also called us to work hard and excel at our work. Levitical law even provided for people doing really well in business, but also helping those who struggle. Jesus didn't command people to be poor, but to use what had been entrusted to them to bless others.

      We can't place our hope in the government or business. As screwed up as the Church is, that is His chosen method for redemption in this world. Now we need the Church to step up to be what He created it to be, and not be represented by those who don't hold to the Bible, justify sin, or look like they lost a paintball war.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  20. Bruce

    "railing against a free market system that rewards diligence"

    Hey Tony. Has it ever occurred to you that the system we have today, be it a "free market" system or not, does not actually reward diligence but instead rewards something entirely different?

    Has it ever occurred to you that some of the richest people in the world do not work nearly as hard, nearly as diligently, as the people who are–right now today–having a hard time even making ends meet?

    If the "free market system" is not in fact rewarding diligence but rather rewards outright fraud (see Goldman Sachs and "too big to fail" banks who gamed the market), then YOU should be the first to rail against it, if in fact you think the system SHOULD reward diligence (or even punish something like sloth).

    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 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.