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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. lostmorals

    Is this guy for real? His thinking style is what has caused America's losses as of late. Me, Me, Me. is all I hear from this selfish idiot. He is unfit to mention the name Jesus, much less twist the truth about him. Disgusting capitalist pig.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  2. kellidaley

    Shame on you, CNN, for posting this propaganda in the front page news spot.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • CNN

      Sorry, we're so sorry! We've been trying to get people to stop commenting but everyone just keeps posting so we have to leave it up!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  3. Nate

    An interesting thesis, but still not quite on the mark. When speaking of Jesus, we constantly must consider the balance between expectation (justice) and compassion (grace). God expects great things of his children – indeed his requirements are above anyone's ability to accomplish them. "Isn't that unjust?" we ask. The answer is no, because while the expectations are insurmountably great, God promises to help us to achieve them if we will come to Him. I agree that Jesus would not jump on the occupy bandwagon because many of the protesters are using so much energy trying to draw attention to problems, they neglect to save some of that energy to go out to try and solve those problems. However, the idea that each of us is responsible for our neighbours is sound. The idea we should be compassionate to those who are less fortunate that we is certainly a Christian principle. At the end of the day, though, when you ask yourself what would Jesus do? The answer is love. Do you love the people on the other side of the aisle (whichever side you may be on) more than you love your ideology? And do you love God more than them all? If so, you have covered the two great commandments and, for some reason, everything after that just seems to fall into place.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Religion Fail

      Stopped reading after the third word. Ugh. Too long winded. Too condescending. Too obfuscated with religious dogma.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  4. Fear

    Only stupidity as the one in this article can surpass by a long reach to the one of the Occupy fauna.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  5. dwight

    so, what was being advocated when jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" that doesn't sound like an endorsement for capitalism and/or free markets.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  6. jbird

    Jesus would have rather had us kick over the bazaar tables(modern day corporations). CNN wouldnt dare be suggesting, that OWS maraud all the banks with violence, would CNN?!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • jbird

      Basically the other way is abandoning pacifism Liberal hold dear.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  7. steelerguin

    Thank you, Mr. Perkins, for any excellent explanation of this parable and how it relates to our modern free market system. It is a shame so many hate God and are blinded to the wisdom in His word.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Patrick Williams

      People don't hate God...it is the hi-jacking og God to fit a person's political agenda that we hate. This "interpretation" was crAp!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Rich

      Actually, to be clear, God hates non-believers. The reverse is not always true.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • LOL

      I do not believe in Snow White; this does not mean I hate her.

      I cannot hate what does not exist anyway.

      If Christians and Muslims, etc ...acted as if their particular instruction manuals dictate, I might be more conducive to listening to the fairy tales.

      But frankly, you do not and the actions of the "enlightened" (which are far louder than words will ever be) debunk the bottomless pit of your empty words.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  8. jude

    wait was jesus really talking about an economic system that would be created some 1700 years or so after his death?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  9. FreeInsight

    MARK 11:15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • steelerguin

      Jesus' response was too the hypocricy of those money changers and was not a condemnation of fair business trade.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Lucy

      Please don't take that out of context. Jesus drove out the moneychangers because they were IN THE TEMPLE courtyard. They were trying to profit off God. It has nothing to do with working.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • karl c

      exactly.......funny how people now Jesus' meanings in parables, when jesus wrote nothing!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  10. Jesus is the only way!

    to heaven!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  11. Religion Fail

    Ha ha ha ha ha!!! Classic sermon drivel. Wow. Pastor, preacher, monsignor...whatever you are – you could not be more out of touch. Preach on brutha.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  12. rabbit_of_war

    I think you are the slime of the earth Tony Perkins to use biblical figures to justify your greed.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  13. Tonic

    Tony Perkins associated with the Ku Klux Klan. Why would CNN look to him for ANY opinion and why would any think anything he has to say about Jesus has ANY validity?

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • KKKabala

      You seem surprised. The KKK is full of "Christian soldiers".

      You sound young and stupid.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  14. radam82

    Jesus was a schizophrenic cult leader, I think he'd fit right in.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  15. Vaugel Thurel

    These are the folks that aren't just turning people away from organized religion, but HATE religion with a passion!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • BEAR

      Jesus was a radical. He cared for the poor which is why they killed him .

      December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  16. mickey

    Yeah, um, isn't this the same guy that cleared the temple of money-changers? Nice try.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • lostmorals

      thank you for bringing this up. I am curious as to what the authors response would be to your rock solid rebuttal.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  17. mitchyj

    Who cares how this imbecile spins the bible to fit his inane ldealogy. He personifies everything wrong with this screwed up country.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Jeremy

      So true...this type of perverted misunderstanding of a Biblical story posted on the front page of CNN.com is exactly what is wrong with this country.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  18. v_mag

    I'm the grandson and nephew of Southern Baptist preachers. I was at the church every time the doors were opened, growing up. I can say with complete confidence that Perkins has perverted the gospel he pretends to proclaim. CNN has exposed right wing evangelicals for the fascists they are.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  19. danieljsf

    Tony Perkins has made a career spreading hate and lies against gay people. I'm not surprised to see this swill coming from him. He's a deceiver if there ever was one.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  20. Tony Perkins is KKK

    Wow, here's Tony Perkins telling us about Jesus.

    Here he is getting in trouble for getting the KKK mailing list as he was involved in campaigning.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/justice-sunday-preachers

    What would Jesus have to say about involvement with such evil racist people?

    CNN, do your homework. Don't put this garbage up. This man is trash – talking about what he thinks about Jesus, while potentially a HUGE racist. Lame.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 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.