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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. Joshua

    What is interesting to me is that in the previous chapter Jesus says "For 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.” (Luke 18:25)

    December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  2. Tsynr

    The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked. <– Calling this a fact is quite a stretch. Business doesn't necessary equal "free market system" either.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      No, Tony call it free market,,,,,,,,,,,but you know it's not free market,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,if you buy congress and set market up ,,it's not free market ,,,right ?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  3. The Anti-Sheep

    I think it's hard to say what Jesus would have thought of anything, given that nearly everything we "know" about the man has simply been borrowed from stories of other "saviors", such as Mithra, Horus and Dionysus. However, if we read the Bible (and yes, I've read it in its entirety several times which is more than most Christians can say), the message is clearly staunchly against greed and wealth and is actually a rather socialist philosophy.

    Most people know what Jesus will say at your judgement before he sends you to hell (Matthew 25:42-45): "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels," but everyone seems to forget what follows: "For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

    Apparently, failure to help the poor or sick or needy is worthy of a ticket straight to hell. In Mark 10:21-25, Jesus explains to a rich man that his path to salvation is to sell everything he owns and give it to the poor. Doesn't exactly match up with what Conservative Christians are spouting off these days.

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

    I'd be very, very careful attempting to tell other people what Jesus woudl or wouldn't do or say or how he would think or act, particularly if you've got an agenda to push. If the Bible tells us anything extrordinarily clearly about Jesus, it is that he did not advocate humans to judge each other lest they be judged. Mr. Perkins of the Family Research Council ("a conservative or right-wing Christian group and lobbying organization" according to Wikipedia), is clearly judging the Occupy movement and people who participate in it. Judge not Mr. Perkins!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  5. Nomboria

    Ugh, another rich feaux-Chrisitan lecturing us on how similar Ayn Rand and Christ were, and ignoring the dozens of entreaties in the new testament to care for the sick, the poor and to give up earthly riches. And he is completely missing the point. OWS is less about whining about the free market, and more about anger over the perversion of the free market and rampant corruption and unprosecuted law-breaking by the very wealthy, followed by stern lectures by pseudo-humans in suits to stop complaining and start slaving to earn back the trillions of dollars they stole from us.

    Steal our money, bribe our financial police, buy our politicians and ruin our nation for your own greed. Go Ahead and change the very fabric of America so that we live in a nation filled with dischord over every petty issue so that we fail to notice your hand in our pockets. Redefine existence so that material wealth becomes the only measure of a man or how much he deserves his very life in this sick society. BUT don't try to pretend you're being righteous and holy by doing so and that the weight of our soul is measurable in dollars! Your flimsy garment of sanctimony fails to hide the massive bloat of your unfathomable greed, which, let's not forget, is mentioned time and again as a horrific sin in every book of the bible. I'm sure there is a very warm welcome waiting you people in the afterlife.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  6. Frank

    What a load of hot crap.

    Read your Bible Mr. Perkins.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  7. Phil

    And what is you explanation for Jesus throwing the money changers(bankers) out of the temple?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  8. Rod

    So looks like CNN is being turned into Faux News Redux

    December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Mike

      Why because for once they wrote a non liberally biased article? Get real. You people love bias when it favors your paradigm.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  9. ChrkeePrde

    Jesus says this himself: "Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give God what belongs to God".

    This article is foolish Tom.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  10. SamB

    The parable has nothing to do with supporting free market economies, hence it being a parable. The underlying message is about putting faith in action, not about investing your minas.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  11. sportsjunkie29

    That's right Tony...Jesus wants people to make fat stacks! Jesus be big pimpin.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Tsynr

      HAH!

      December 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  12. us1776

    Who does this guy think he's 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 3:29 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      ha,,,,,,,,,,,,yes

      December 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  13. Terry

    Why do news outlets give tools like this guy a platform?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  14. epona

    With all do respect sir, but how the heII would you know?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • ChrkeePrde

      Amen

      December 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  15. ObamaJoe

    Yes, we are to "occupy" heart for the Kingdom,,,,,,,,,,,,not your free market ,,,,,,Tony

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  16. Robert Jordan

    Believe me. You wouldn't like Jesus if you met him: brown skinned. Believed in giving away health care. Hung out with the wrong sort of people. Long hair and beard. No, you wouldn't like him one bit.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  17. asdf

    But Jesus wants a handful of his choose people to steal all the wealth from the unfaithful.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  18. Henry Plantagenet

    Jesus occupied a nearby hilltop with 5000 people so he could preach his message of povery and sharing, occupied the Temple and tossed out the moneychangers (read Wall Street bankers), and....advised that you pay your taxes.

    Nice try, Tony!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • us1776

      Henry, Exactly.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  19. Sean Russell

    What a warped, twisted view of Jesus. Mr. Perkins is a sick man.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  20. DriveThemFromTheTemple

    Talk about turning the Bible and Jesus' example on their heads! This clown has some nerve! Jesus a "free marketer?" Has he ever read Mark 10:25: "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 3:29 pm |
    • Mike

      "Easier" not impossible. I think most of you commenters forget the Parable of the Tax Collector. So as you all look down your nose at the rich, remember which one was Justified?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:39 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.