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.
And Jesus would support tax cuts for the wealthy too, eh???
Jesus did not believe in the wealth of this world
Just shocking that a right-wing pseudo-Christian hack like Tony Perkins would think Jesus is on "his" side.
Tell you what, Tony. Let's go through all four gospels together. You get a point every time Jesus talks about abortion, I get a point every time he talks about ministering to the poor. First one to 10 points wins.
I'll even spot you the first nine points.
I loved your post!
Parables aren't meant to be taken literally. Its laughable that this is what Tony Perkins gets out of this parable.
Jesus would probably agree that this guy is an idiot
He is just a bad guy,,,not idiot
A perfect example of how the Bible can be twisted to say whatever you want it too. Jesus a free-marketer? That is just plain insulting.
Perkins: "the Greek term behind the old English translation literally means 'be occupied with business.'"
And here I was thinking that Jesus threw the money-lenders out of the temple, and all the time he was one of them. Pushing to get to the front I guess. But one little detail makes me doubt Mr Perkins's scholarly credentials. The King James Bible was not written in "old English." It was written in modern English. A man who makes a gaffe like that cannot be trusted to interpret ancient Greek. "Occupied with business." What a crock.
Shame on you CNN for even publishing this, much less allowing it to go on your front page.
You do know this man is classified by other countries as being a member of a hate organization right?
Well, Tony, you are so wrong! Jesus was a liberal: he healed the sick and fed the poor. It is time for those of us who are on the left to take Jesus back from you right wingers who kidnapped him decades ago and falsely made him a republican.
Good luck with that, Dakota. No, really . . . I mean it.
Jesus is long dead and he missed his advertised same-generation comeback. Ain't gonna be seeing him again. He wasn't divine, even though he might have been an OK guy in his day. Seems the sheeple need heroes, but you can probably find better, more recent ones.
Tony Perkins. Psycho. What a simple-minded neocon contortion and complete misunderstanding of a fairly straightforward parable. The Family Research Council is a for-profit lobbying business and dealer in disinformation like this "Belief Blog" post. If you are looking for truth, Tony Perkins is not a credible source.
spin spin spin. Gents like this fellow are why I never looked back when I left Christianity.
If you don't vote how your preacher tells you to vote you are going to hell. Vote white vote right vote Republican.
ASDF, Either you are joking or you are incredibly stupid.
A ruler giving out money...one mina each to his ten servants. Say, where exactly did the ruler get that money? Since government doesn't create any wealth. Why, the ruler must have gotten it in taxes and is now distributing it equally to his people. That sounds like a socialist parable to me! Even if Mr. Perkins insists it's really about capitalism and your return on investment, what does he say about the fact all the servants got to start with the same capital? Is that a picture of America today–we all get to start life with the same amount of money? If not, is he saying Jesus wants us all to start with the same amount of money, and then be judged on how we handle it?
This is laughable and incredibly scary. The PowersThat BE just keep on cranking it out and people just keep believing it don't they? Rent the movie, "I AM".
Oops, sorry. That last little bit, about how this article is solely the opinion of Tony Perkins, isn't supposed to be there. We do in-fact agree with Tony Perkins. Fix coming soon.
MSNBC will eat your lunch.
Another example of the Repugnants rewriting history. Now they say Jesus would be "Free Marketer". How sick is that? These people will stop at nothing. If Jesus was in the US today, he would condemn the Repugnant Party.
And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Really, Jesus was a free market advocate? I'm so glad that His mission on earth finally has been deciphered by Perkins, a man who clearly worships money more than the word of God.
He is a very bad guy,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,working for the dark side
This guy believing he can think for Jesus should be quite he blasphemy against his own religion, shouldn't it?
My Take: Tony Perkins is a moron.
No,,he is a clever bad guy,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
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.