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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. Olly Orlando

    Everytime someone decides to speak on God or jesus' behalf, I throw up a bit in my mouth and hate them all the more for their egomanicial arrogance. The scriptures have been translated, edited and re-written for hundreds of years. If you were not there, you do not know what was truly said because mankind has constructed God and Jesus to be in their image, not the other way around. While God is very much real, ALL RELIGION IS FALSE.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Meathead (of the Word)

      Then go ahead and choke, because that's exactly what He instructed those who are followers and truly believe in Him to do. It can be done right, or it can be done wrong. But we are His workmanship. Stop hating and get with the program.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Eric G

      Sorry Meathead. "But we are His workmanship" is a statement of fact. You will need to provide verifiable evidence to support your claim.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  2. whatever

    This guy will roast in hell. what a selfish twit.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  3. Jerrry

    Who cares what a mythical character would have done, why can't we just do what is right?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  4. Vivia McPeace

    This article is a piece of trash! F*&^ Tony Perkins. He does not speak for Christ. This hollow, apologist propaganda for the corporate right wing is nothing more than cow dung turned into a news piece. NOBODY Y OCCUPY CARES ABOUT THIS MEANINGLESS DRIVEL!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  5. Melvin Ksuzak

    Nice to see "Heresy" is alive and well in the United States of American.

    "Take A Bath You Heretic!"

    December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  6. kilcourtney

    This is what's wrong with you Republican idiots, you keep saying the unbelievable even when we have the facts to prove you wrong. Hey Tony Jesus flipped tables in the temple in disgust. You neoconic moron!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  7. Jordu

    Mr Perkins:

    With all due respect, you are a charlatan and a buffoon. Jesus would boot you and your snake oil out of the temple.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  8. Mike

    as soon as I read "Family Research Council" I stopped reading. It's a FaRCe.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  9. Michael Franklin

    Gay Escort Gave Nude Massages to Family Research Council Founder

    December 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Jeb

      Oh, that Family Research Council.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  10. McBain

    What a bunch of drivel. This guy doesn't even understand his own religion.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Degrin

      Why understand it or speak truth about a religion when you can misrepresent it to push your own agenda like the FRC does?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  11. suesark

    Oh brother!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  12. Paul

    CNN, this man runs what the Southern Poverty Law Center has rightfully designated a hate group. And you put his drivel front and center on your main page. This really was the last straw for me. I don't know what religious nitwits you have running your editorial desk, but to allow this patent liar to even appear on CNN's page is disgraceful. I'll find my news somewhere else.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • rdg18

      Liberal's are a hate group.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Norps

      I agree. This is deeply offensive that this hate spewer would be allowed a platform from which to project his bile. CNN, any repulsive opinion put forth by this man does not deserve a main stream airing. He is the very definition of a fringe religious fanatic seeking to impose his will and beliefs on others.

      I'm plainly admitting to commenting without bothering to read anything this mas say because I don't want any thought he ever had occupying any part of my mind. As to whatever he says about his magic zombie, I could care less. How would he know what a magic zombie from 2000 years ago would do. I suppose he is also a magic man, and speaks to the magic zombie and hears messages. This is who you at CNN expect us to read?

      December 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  13. Balls McGhee

    this guy has no shame. how dare he speak for Jesus!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  14. Gregg

    Shut the f up, Tony Perkins

    December 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  15. emdub

    perkins is the grand wizard of the family research council klan

    December 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  16. John

    I am a devout christian. My own interpretation of the fundamental meaning of the parable noted is not unlike that of Mr. Perkins. However, the "minas" represent not just money but human potential. In the Revised Standard translation, the unit of currency is translated as "talent," which is intended to convey this broader meaning. I feel moved to note to my brother in Christ and to this community that the use of this passage as a defense of capitalism takes matters more than a little too far. Any such attempt to twist the scripture's eternal message of Faith, Hope, and Charity into justification of some or another economic theory or partisan political position is, if we still remember the meaining of the word, blasphemy.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • McBain

      That last bit is exactly what Mr. Perkins should read, John.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Phil J

      That's exactly right! Any of these people that sre trying to hit people over the head over economic principles have lost their way.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Grace

      Yes.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Tom Howard

      Well said, John!! This clown is a charlatan.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Eric G

      Why are you a devout Christian? Why do you believe?

      December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  17. David in Houston

    Just another psuedo-Christian profitting off of Jesus' name.

    Pathetic indeed...

    December 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  18. J

    Did anyone else notice that he also combined Jesus' instruction to his disciples with a DIFFERENT PARABLE? I am not a Christian, have never been one, and was not raised in a Christian environment, but I can still tell he is combining the parable of the master and the servants (who received talents, each worth several minas, but that is a separate point) with the last statements made by "apparition Jesus."
    Can't these bible-thumpers even get their own nonsense straight?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • John

      J

      You are correct. The "parable of the talents" is in Matthew 25. I infer that Christ was giving us the same message twice.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  19. Matthew

    “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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 2:44 pm |
    • lucianne

      Nice that you have actually read the bible and aren't misibterpreting it for political ends. I wish te same were true of some of the evangelicals out there! Thanks.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Connor

      When I opened up this page I thought the exact same thing.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • NowtrytoTHINK

      The meaning, of course, being that a "wealthy" man would have to shed his belongings and worldly attachments (thus becoming unwealthy) before entering heaven. Just in the same way all goods and cargo would have to be removed from a camel before it could fit through one of those gates commonly referred to as the eye of the needle.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Doug

      It isn't harder for a rich man to enter into heaven because he is rich, but because most rich people can't serve two masters, God and money. If a rich man follows the teachings in the bible, including accepting Jesus as their savior, they will enter heaven. Being rich or being poor has absolutely nothing to do with where your eternal soul will reside.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • JenniferM

      True. It's kind of hard to see how anyone could justify excessive wealth when tens of thousands are starving.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  20. Jeff in San Diego

    So we should all fish in the oil-polluted water and farm the chemical soaked lands? What is this guys point? Jesus was a banker who thinks it is OK to defraud millions of investors and then go running to the tax payers to make sure he gets his billion dollar bonus? Is that Jesus' message? Sure glad I don't go to church now. I guess the "light of the world" is just an overpriced GE bulb made in China.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • christain

      pretty lame and please go by some common sense

      December 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • lucianne

      Some of these so-called Christians missed the part where we are to be stewards of the earth, to preserve and protect it, not to trash it for personal or political gain. I wish they would read their own bible, as apparently most of them do not, except to misquote or misinterpret small sections. Pharisees, all of them.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:54 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.