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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. erich2112x

    The GOP have removed Jesus from the cross and replaced him with an American, Republican Aqua Net coated politician, suit and all.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  2. Kevin

    Yikes. It appears that both sides have forgotten the 2nd commandment. How arrogant to twist God's word to support your chosen economic policy.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  3. S

    uh, who the hell are you to say that Jesus would not support the occupy movement when he was the biggest PROTESTER of his time???? He was the one who protested the " money changers"!!!!!!!! the person who wrote this article is not only arrogant, he is totally ignorant.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  4. Larry Ratdog

    I kind of remembering Jesus going into the temple and flipping out over the corruption he saw. I don't think Tony Perkins really knows Jesus, which is typical of republicans.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  5. Jim

    You want to throw bible quotes around, how about "It is easier for a camel to walk through an eye of a needle then it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."
    Chrisitanity has never endorsed the rich as good, this article is total crap.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Larry Ratdog

      I think republicans are trying to make sure 99% of us get into heaven.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Merciless

    Jesus must have been a smart prophet.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  7. Matther21.21

    "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves."

    This was an overt act against corruption similar to the OWS protesters.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  8. zebra

    So, what's the interpretation of Jesus overthrowing the tables of the moneychangers in the temple? I believe that story is in all four gospels. I don't get a sense of Jesus supporting the free market system.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  9. lol

    >Looks down on occupiers
    >Takes handouts from KKK Grand Wizard David Duke back in 1996
    >Tries to buy David Dukes silence by paying a hate monger $82,000
    >Takes moral high ground over the poor.

    Wat.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  10. Josh

    So, how do you know what Jesus would have wanted? Are you a mind reader? Another arrogant fool spewing hatred.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  11. Nick

    To pretend that there is any interpretation of the Bible which portrays Jesus as putting any amount of stock in money is rediculous!!! The Bible makes it perfectly clear that money has no value to Jesus. The parables you quote above are just that... PARABLES!!! Meant to teach us to do God's Work, not man's work. Jesus wants us to help those less fortunate at all cost. To pretend he would support the wealthiest hording money is a joke. Please re-read your parables and pray God will allow you to learn (I will do the same).

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  12. David Rigsbee

    Only a shallow fool would have such beliefs.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  13. general

    SOMEONE NEEDS TO KILL THIS GUY TRUE STORY HE CAN NOT BE ALLOWED TO LIVE HIS LIFE JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Merciless

      I just see occupy protesters coveting their neighbors

      December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  14. Howard

    The best rebuttal of this slipshod and intellectually dishonest editorial is... the words Jesus himself spoke.

    Mark 10:21-22 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  15. johnathan

    No surprise that CNN prints such garbage. CNN is almost the exclusive sponsor these days of anything TEA BAG, in an effort to take market share away from the disgusting FOX News ("We report, We decide for you")

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  16. Raymond James Thibault, SFC,USA Ret

    I suggest you reread the Gospels. It's easier for a Camel to pass trough the eye of a needle than to enter Heaven. Jesus disrupted the greedy money changers in the temple. Today I believe he would do the same on Wall Street. He Would be an occupier!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  17. Steve

    Christianity has been infected with partisan politics so thoroughly that it has become a cancer. The arrogance of determining what Jesus would and wouldn't support politically to push an agenda is blasphemy to the highest degree. Unfortunately, you all have lost your way and decided that material possession in this world is more important than serving the poor and homeless.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Amen, Brother

      Steve, you hit the nail on the head.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  18. Mlwelsha

    I think the author is misguided in asserting that "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." The last I checked, we are NOT all born with the same opportunity, and those who have more than others (AKA Wall Street) usually use their resources not to help their fellow man, but instead supress them for capital gain.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  19. Qwerty1

    Someone interpreting ancient parables to fit their view of a modern event?

    You could at least try to be original...

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  20. tony

    This is not opinion- it is self delusion.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:59 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.