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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. Million $ Question

    Ok, you have now heard the parable in Luke 19, the question is

    what are we doing with our time/talents???

    Accountability is imminent!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  2. Capercorn

    At first I was raging.

    And then I looked at Tony's picture. That look off to the side. The toothy grin.

    I jumped back in horror at the realization: it's a trollface. Seriously. He looks just like trollface.jpg

    FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      Dear god, you're right.
      We've been so trolled...

      December 6, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Capercorn

      Hey, Tony, I have an idea.

      Here is a box. We should both put $20 in the box. Then I'll sell you the box for $30.

      WE BOTH MAKE A $10 PROFIT!!

      INFINITE MONIES!!!

      December 6, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  3. Ed

    So, Jesus was a screw-the-poor kind of dude? Hmm, I must have missed that day in sunday school.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  4. Michael S.

    Yet another pseudo Christian in thrall to the Gospel of Prosperity. Sadly for him and all like him, the teachings attributed to Jesus make one thing very clear. Material concerns are completely at odds with Spiritual considerations. Hoard your pennies and you are bound to find that all the extra weight will be too much when it comes time for your Soul to fly.

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

      Right on Michael. Conveinant how he left out the part of the gospel where Jesus kicks the money lenders out of the Temple for taking advantage of the poor, eh? People that use Jesus to serve their own agenda are not serving the agenda of Christ.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • ...

      And yet you probably still have a job and a bank account, how's that work?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  5. Zues

    You are such an idiot.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  6. Person

    Using nonsense to justify a perception of reality. Brilliant.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  7. T3chsupport

    Wow. I'm actually speechless at the stupidity of this article.

    How about the whole New AND Old testaments talking about how we needed to take care of our poor? Pretty sure that was a bigger message than 'go forth and subjugate and prosper'.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Martin T

      Seriously though, this article speaks to something I have written about many times where the Christian Right is concerned. The notion that this nation should not take care of its poor is about as counter to the real religious culture as one can get. I find it nauseating when Christians talk about socialism like it's this terrible notion just because it seeks to help everyone in society. Much of what is spewed in the Christian Right today has played a huge part in my finally deciding to come out as an Atheist.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      It made me an atheist for a little while, but settled with agnosticism.
      It's nice on top of the fence.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Martin T

      Well, that wasn't the ONLY thing that caused me to declare my atheism. I actually looked at the whole idea of a god from many angles and found that he/she was as invisable from EVERY angle. Nothing added up, prayer, miracles, etc... nothing.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  8. Edward W.

    Seriously? Who really cares about this Tony? Maybe you, your wife, and perhaps your kids. I would go so far as to say that perhaps those in your congregation care about whether Jesus was an "occupier". Someone obviously told you this was a magnificent piece and you should share it with others through CNN.

    They were wrong. This is speculative garbage and nothing more, why not save this stuff for your Church website or blog?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  9. abcdxyz

    Conservatives who identify as Christian should take note of Matthew 25 and think about what it means for them:

     41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 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.’
       44 “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?’
       45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
       46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    December 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Martin T

      Finally, something that MAKES sense. Thank you for sharing this.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Food, drink, clothing, shelter, medicine?
      But I thought He was, and therefore we should aspire to be, *not of this world*, not interested in worldly things.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  10. Capercorn

    Yeah, and Ayn Rand was such a nice Christian.

    And the Apostles were all about profit maximization.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  11. Sandy Ferguson

    Gee, where do you start with Mr. Perkins and his rather limited approach to what scripture reveals about the ministry of Jesus in the Galilee. Kudos for being able to trot out the one parable about Jesus seemingly supporting an effective investment portfolio, but as always with his ilk the usual approach of ignoring all the other evidence, such as the fact that Jesus and his supporters dispensing free health care, that the Kingdom of God is represented as a communal meal where all share in the bounty of God's creation with no distinction being made on race, gender, how much money you have etc. Then there is ongoing warning from Jesus about how the pursuit of wealth-which if I understand correctly is the basis for the free market-separates us from God. The fact that usually if Jesus wants to illustrate those who will not be saved, he uses either a rich man who refuses to let go of his wealth or a so-called religious person who passes judgement on others without recognizing their own separation from God. I think the best way to sum up what Jesus hopes from his followers in their call to prepare the way for the Kingdom of God can be found in Matthew following the parable of the talents, its chapter 25 verses 31 to 46, where Jesus reveals that the path of salvation is to be found in feeding those who hunger, giving drink to those who thirst, clothing those who are naked, tending those who are sick, and visiting those who are in prison. Maybe if Mr.Perkins and his organization spent more effort, energy and resources on this path of faith instead of whining and complaining about a non-existent war on Christians or trying to silence the voices of the Occupy movement, maybe,just maybe the Kingdom of God might come closer to being fulfilled...

    December 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Martin T

      ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.. what, eh.. er.. sorry, did you say something?

      December 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  12. WDRussell

    Hate groups like the FRC only use religion to avoid paying taxes.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Lefty Leon

      You are absolutely right. This group is one of the biggest most well funded hate groups in America. It's basically the Klu Klux Klan in disguise. They use religion to get what they want. They want to get tax cuts for the wealthy and they want everyone who is not white, straight and christian to be put down. CNN should really not give them a column on their news site.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  13. mah

    Tony Perkins is a moron.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  14. ticktockman0

    I suppose one must expect such twisted rationalization from a man who heads an organization that endorses Congressman Joe Walsh, deadbeat dad to the tune of over $100,000, as a "True Blue" defender of marriage and family. Yup, this sure is a guy you want defining "values" for you.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Martin T

      Actually, I don't mind these "values" nutjobs who are out in the open, that way I can keep an eye on them... a close eye.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  15. Ben

    A) I'm pretty sure Jesus was not saying "I'm going to leave this earth soon, make money in my absence."

    B) The problem with your example is that all of the servants were on equal footing in the beginning, they all had 1 Mina. The king did not say "10 Servants, you have what you have, now go try to make more money." I hardly see how this is relevant besides there is money involved...

    December 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • ..

      More importantly, in the parable the master and new king returned to the servants (slaves.) Jesus never did.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  16. Walter Shmitt

    This guy is too stupid for words. Where does CNN find these flat earth/literal bible idiots?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Martin T

      I believe that CNN is attempting to pull an Onion on this one.. do you think? This would have made a great Onion story for sure.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  17. Martin T

    Holy C-R-A-P! What a crock! Trying to say what a mythical man would have said if he lived today, is kind of like trying to say what the mythical man said back when he didn't exist. Wait, oh never mind.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  18. The Beagle

    So does the fact that Jesus often featured slaves in his parables mean that he endorsed slavery? Does the fact that those slaves are often beaten mean that he endorsed beating them? I guess so! See my blog post at http://pathofthebeagle.com/2011/10/20/what-did-jesus-say-about-slavery/

    The fact is that Jesus and the Bible are products of their time. Glean what wisdom you can from them, but any man or book that endorses slavery is not an infallible authority. If you disagree, read my entire series on biblical slavery starting at http://pathofthebeagle.com/2011/09/10/invitation-to-a-dialog-on-biblical-slavery

    December 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Dasein

      So, are you suggesting that slavery is somehow "wrong" or "unjust"? I don't quite understand. Perhaps you should open your mind to other ways of life. You seem like the type who would make a fine slave. As a stern taskmaster, I would make you love me.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  19. Dasein

    Is it true that Paul dick slapped Jesus, or is that just metaphorical?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Martin T

      Paul never met Jesus, in fact I believe that Paul KNEW Jesus was a mythical figure, if you read his letters there are some references to such.

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

      Thanks, Martin. Paul dick slapping Jesus was metaphorical.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • .

      I believe it was metaphalical.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  20. George B

    Are you kidding....where did this guy come from

    December 6, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Ed

      not sure but hopefully he'll go back and stay there

      December 6, 2011 at 2:38 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.