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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. robert frost

    Jesus says universal healthcare for all and tell those rightwing christianists "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE"

    December 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • kdl

      Hey, CNN, have you figured out yet that the group this nitwit is President of is little more than a narrow-minded group of crackpots? Do you see *ANYONE* supporting their views? Anyone? I'm all for giving folk a forum, but this is silly. You might as well ask the insane fella blathering at the intersection wearing tin-foil hats about the current socio-economic problems in the Sudan.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  2. JeffinIL

    Prosperity Gospel
    And Jesus said, "I got mine."

    December 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  3. len

    Sorry to say but jesus is a fictional character. never existed. His story is all made up between the 2 and 10th centuries.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Jared

      Which is why there are writings that date back to the first century about Christians.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • .

      There were Athenians long before that, does that make Athena real?

      December 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  4. Jared

    I think you could have found better examples in the Bible to support the opinion that something earned is something that should be kept. But, I have to say that Jesus may well have been an occupier because when he was asked about taxes, he said to pay them. Add to that the teachings based on Acts 4:32 would suggest that the early church was very much opposed to individual wealth for they all shared what they had. Land owners even sold their lands and gave it to the apostles who then redistributed it to those in need.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  5. Lynne

    This guy (and others of his ilk) is the modern equivalent of a 'money changer' in the temple. They make their riches off of other people's religious convictions.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  6. Ana

    He isn't "getting" the Occupy movement... we are NOT against WINNERS- it's the CHEATERS who defraud Americans we are protesting against. Big difference.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • YES!

      EXCELLENT POINT!!

      December 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Nonimus

      So are all of the 1% cheaters then?

      December 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Calbear

      Yes, excellent point! And by no means does this argue that all 1%ers are cheaters. Some are winners (let's say e.g. Bill Gates), but many are cheaters (e.g. those who buy politicians to protect and grow their wealth).

      December 6, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • #WINNING

      I'm confused.
      "we are NOT against WINNERS- it's the CHEATERS"
      and
      'we are the 99%'
      and yet
      "And by no means does this argue that all 1%ers are cheaters. "

      How is that not calling the 1%ers cheaters?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • #WINNING

      Oh, and by the way the 99% are really only the 43%.
      http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20125515-503544/poll-43-percent-agree-with-views-of-occupy-wall-street/

      December 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Nomboria

      #Winning – This world is full of false dichotomies, please stop adding more. Saying "WE ARE THE 99%" is not in any way saying that all of the 1% is cheating. It simply states that the interests of the 1% should not outweight the interests of everyone else, no matter how much they contribute to campaigns.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  7. Ed

    the problem is our current system doesn't reward diligence. I think the free market system is fine but whent he people in control use it to stack the deck then the system need to be improved. The parable this guy is using was meant to show hard work can pay off. That's true but the system doe need to be fair. I suspect if Jesus saw our current system his reaction would be more similar to his reaction to the market set up in the temple then to praise it as this guy suggests

    December 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  8. TMariale

    "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?"

    Very good Mr. Perkins, you've slandered a legitimate movement using your religion as a cloak to hide your blatantly biased political motivations. When you get back to the Family Research Counsel, perhaps you can discuss whether Jesus would approve of his name being bandied around to score petty political points. And maybe after that, you could write an article about how Jesus returned to Earth to vote for Ronald Reagan!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • elle

      Any movement has bad apples. But...also... Jesus did, arguably, trash property by overturning the money changer's tables. He was against greed and corruption. I don't think he quibbled about their property. I'm not advocating property damage, but by Christian's own scriptures, there is much more evidence he would have been for it rather than against it.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  9. Dasein

    Can you imagine? Roman: "What do you Christians believe?" Christian: "Uh, we have a lot of different ideas. We don't really think in terms of 'belief'. I mean, like, some of us are atheists, and some believe in Thor, and stuff .... We all hate the Roman 1% though."

    December 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  10. Colin

    In order for a docu.ment to be accurate, it should, ideally, be written by an eyewitness to the events it records. If it is not, the chances of it being accurate decrease significantly.

    So, how many writings to do have about Jesus that were written by eyewitnesses? The answer is zero. None of the authors of the 4 Gospels even claim to have witnessed what they recount. All four are based on (i) earlier writings such as “Q”; and (ii) oral tradition. The earliest, Mark, was written about 35 years after Christ died and the latest, John, about 65 years after he died.

    Certainly, we have no idea who the people we now call Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were. The traditional pre-Dark Ages claims of the Catholic Church as to their identi.ty are now universally rejected by Biblical scholars.

    Finally, there are no other references to Jesus anywhere else that were written within 100 years of his death, save some oblique references by Josephus and Pliny the Younger – which talk more about his followers than him.

    So, in short, for a person to say Jesus would do this or do that, or did do this or did do that requires accepting the word of totally unknown people writing decades after he died with a religious motivation to beef up Christ’s importance.

    The highly probable course of events is that Jesus was nothing more than one of many apocalyptical prophets running around the Middle East at the time and that his legend grew in stature after he died, not unlike we see for many historical figures – Mohammed, Buddha, John Smith, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, JFK, MLK etc.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Mikey

      Awesome. Unfortunately most people don't look at the history surrounding the Bible, just whatever their sadly undereducated pastor tells them. (Not including seminary trained priests and minister in this criticism!)

      December 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Keelo

      Good post, Colin! For all the times Reality posts similar summaries, you seem to have produced a much more concise take on it.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Ed

      Colin, The Gospel of John is considered by many religious scholars to have been written by John the Apostle in his later life. He is the John that walked with Christ, and would therfore be an eyewitness. I know many secular scholars claim this to be false. But lets be honest they have no real way on knowing this for sure. Granted the religious scholars are in the same boat with lack of real evidence.

      As for eyewitness testimony being the most reliable. An any cop at least as it refers to criminal accounts it is one of the least reliable. The point being that becasue the Gospels were not all written by eyewittness does notprove they are inaccurate.

      One of the things that leads me to believe they have some accuracy is the fact the the people relaying the story as told to them by the apostles(according to tradition) is they don't make the apostles look perfect. When people tell storys of what happened we almost always promote ourselves to the highest level possible. Consider discriptions on great plays in sports by friends that were there. they often include statements like 'I was right there" or 'It was great I saw the whole thing.' In the Gospels the exact opposite is done. They show Peter's failures and Thomas's doubt. Indicating the people telling the story wanted it to be accurate not self promoting.

      Finally the important part of the Gospels is to tell the teachings of Christ. It is unimportant what his hair or eye color were or the name of the women he saved from being stoned. It is important that he saved by showing we all have sinned and granted her forgiveness. It doesn't matter what he wore or how tall he was. It matters that he died for our sins and proved we could do better then we often do. He gave as an example to strive for.

      Many faithful and n one faithful alike get caught up in the details when its the message that matters. In fact most of the things the Atheist complain about when the condmen religion is the actions of the faith not the actual religion or teaching of the religion. Granted many of the faithful have given them good reason. When reading the Bible read it from to see what emmotions it causes not can you prove it right or wrong, you'll ge more out of it.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • W247

      Does anyone here know who Colin is? Has anyone met him? Seen a picture? Know his history? Yet, you praise him for speaking his "truth's" without a thought of who he really is. You are more likely to believe him then to believe the Word.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Ed

      @W247 not really sure what your trying to say here. Whether or not Colin is the posters real name or just a moniker is irrelevant. What he or she looks like, where they were born, equally meaningless. He has a right to his opinon. I say he becasue Colin is typically a male name only. He has a right to state his opinon. He has done so. while I often disagree with him I want support denying his right to his opinon or without good reason suggest he is being anything less then genuine.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • elle

      Arguing about whether Jesus did or did not exist is pointless, sine we weren't there. The greater point, is that for those who believe in their religion and their scriptures, there are certain ideas that cannot be denied. The support of greed and corruption and the denial of social justice is simply not consistent with Christian's own teachings.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  11. Binky42

    Unfortunately too many Christians don't know the basics of their own religion, so men like this can easily convince them to believe practically anything. According to a 2010 Pew study, only 50% of Christians in the US could name the four gospels.

    Learn your religion folks. There are some good messages in the Bible, but take them from the source and not from crooked men like this.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  12. MattyB511

    What an interesting topic and what a terribly executed thought process this was. Jesus Christ, the man, was nothing that was represented in this article. He was a social dissident who promoted a mass exodus from the, as he saw them, corrupt powers of his time. He was a collectivist whose teachings centered upon the ideas of love, compassion, acceptance and the focus of a caring society on the 'least of us.' I am certainly not advocating for a societal shift toward collectivism but I am shocked at the intelectually shallow, and perhaps dishonest, way in which the life of a great man has been distorted based upon a small exceprt of a book written by men who lived long after the time of Jesus Christ.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Keelo

      "perhaps" dishonest? I think you need to step up and tell the truth: this author is definitely dishonest!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Adit

      Hi Gretchen! I'm doing 4 at a time, because I'm letulmanioussy adding them to Flickr, and didn't want to overwhelm my Flickr stream with photos of my feet :) And yes, I'm using my 28 everyday to try to get some continuity with the placement of my feet. In hindsight, I probably should have used my 20mm, but it's manual focus (old lens from my Dad) and not sure I'd always want to focus manually! Thanks for the nice comments :)

      April 1, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  13. Barry G.

    Tony,

    I suggest you open and read your Bible.

    Start with Luke 4:18.

    I also suggest you read the Hebrew prophets, whose main concern was social justice.

    "Let justice flow like a rifer, let righteousness flow like a stream!"
    The Prophet Isaiah

    December 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Barry G.

      Let justice flow like a river, let righteousness flow like a stream.

      Isaiah

      December 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • .

      "Let it stream like a river." – Flomax

      December 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • wrong verse

      @Barry G.
      I think this one is more fitting:

      Mother Goose 20:3

      Baa, baa, black sheep,
      Have you any wool?
      Yes sir, yes sir,
      Three bags full.
      One for the master,
      One for the dame,
      And one for the little boy
      Who lives down the lane.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  14. Arick

    Blah blah blah Jesus hates poor people blah blah.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  15. Today100

    This guy has no clue. He follows the Gospel of Supply Side Jesus (google it). How deluded he is by own cognitive dissonance that he will resort to such blather in order to justify his own desires. Why is this small minded regressive opinion posted on CNN's front page?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  16. you shoulda paid closer attention to your lies

    for real!!!! this guy gets a forum?!!! what an idiot. even the fact that christ says hey i gotta go away for awhile but keep doing what i said to do is hilarious. i mean does that not sound like the statement of a desperate man realizing oh crap ive made everyone so mad that theyre gonna kill me? and to attribute to christianity capitalism is so apt its not funny. of course they believe in a market that has an eventual downfall do to selfishness greed and mass manipulation. good luck christians make sure you get your hole head in front of the shotgun. thanks for calling

    December 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Binky42

    The money CNN paid for this article will all go to help hungry people this Holiday season.......yeah right!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • elle

      Its important that CNN expose nuts like this so that people can discuss this and remind Christians what they really claim to stand for.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  18. Larry Tennessee

    The Repuliican party has so screwed with the teachings of Jesus that everything they do is now legal and moral and everyone they condemn is illegal and immoral. Of course, if it isn't, they'll find the right verse somewhere in the bible (the biggest book of fiction ever witten) to make it so. What a bunch of publicans and pharisees!!!! And yes INDEED, the churches should be paying their fair share of taxes on their offerings; property; and, anything else taxable just like a corporate personhood!!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Mayara

      I was not the only customer who felt the pdcoure was over-watered. HE told ME that customers tell him vitamins and minerals are washed away with water.That's what I've said to your employees for years. Some literally water it like a yard in summer, talking to customers and not paying attention.He told me to say something. I said I've talked to employees, emailed, left notes til I realized NO ONE WILL DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.Water should never be dripping off greens. I've set them in my cart and they are still wet when I check out, nearly an hour later.I wonder if the pdcoure personnel actually ever eat a salad or use fresh veggies in any capacity?I told him I buy most of my pdcoure at the farmer's markets where the pdcoure is out in the fresh air for HOURS and NEVER SPRAYED with WATER.Farmer's market pdcoure lasts for many days longer than the Co-Op's. I am single, money always tight, and I see no reason why the Co-Op, like other stores, insist on drenching greens!Have you looked at green onions, spinach, beet greens? I won't buy green onions at the Co-Op cos they should last a week, but usually many of the green part are already wilting.I had to put ALL my greens in various colanders for over an hour at home. I had to wipe my beets with paper towels and set out to dry too. I can't get as much organic pdcoure at my local farmer's market. So once a week I venture to the Co-Op. I make juices and rather use organic. I just don't know what to do. I want to support the Co-Op, but what about helping those of us who really want fresh organic veggies to last longer, but can't because your employees insist on over-watering.So sad, but think how many other customers buy at the outdoor farmer's markets instead of the Co-Op? You are losing money.Do you care? I do . . .

      April 2, 2012 at 3:40 am |
  19. Barry G.

    Jesus said:
    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to set the oppressed free...

    The Gospel of Luke 4:18

    December 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  20. Mindlayr

    I think the author has completely missed it. Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers because he saw that greed had displaced the true purpose of the place. The greed in our time is just as palpable and if Jesus were real he would be gravely disappointed in the establishment. I think the parable analogy is way off. It would have been more accurate if he had given the money to his servants instead of his trained advisers and then wondered why they didn't know how to invest or manage the resources they have because he never gave them a chance to learn.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:19 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.