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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. Lance

    Jesus didn't live in a democracy. Consequently the teachings we have from him (if they really are from him) don't give us any clue what recommendations he would make on public policy and anyone who suggest he knows Jesus' stance on public policy for a democracy is suggesting he meant his religious teachings to be applied as government imperitives something he clearly never taught.

    However the more important question is whether or not certain policies make sense and provide the best sustainable government with the most benefit to as many people as possible.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  2. Asaddday

    This is a very sad article. Jesus is mad because the man failed and tried to blame someone else. It is corruption in wallstreet that has caused the vast majority of protesters to come out not their own failures. They are fighting to protect the poor who simply get overlooked in todays political environment. Please stop trying to put words in God's mouth. If u want to make a diiference don't write articles like these instead spread hope, spread love, spread faith. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 5:3

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  3. PS

    "And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual." So....GW (who may be a nice person, but himself admits not the brightest bulb in the house) lives the life of a millionaire just because of his caring and rich parents who paid for his education at Yale, while anotheher kid is born to poor, abusive meth addicts who torment him his entire childhood and provide no emotional or financial support, and no hope. But the poor kid loses because of 'diligence and determination.' Nice religion you've got there.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  4. Mike

    What an idiot this guy is. Standing in his fancy suit with his $300 haircut and talking down on people expressing their right to protest. This loser isn't even smart enough to be ashamed at himself and his selfish outlook on the world. Sounds to me like his only knowledge of the Occupy movement is what he saw on Fix News. Pathetic. A shameful way of thinking.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  5. shay

    Why is this on your front page CNN? Has FOX News pulled you to the dark side?? This article is embarrassing. I'm Going away now, and probably not coming back.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  6. emmy skadittle

    Jesus was the Original Liberal

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

    Anybody who is the president of an organization dedicated to the position that people who are attracted to people who are the same gender as they are should be put in prison for life doesn't get to lecture others about morality on CNN. He's an outright hate monger and bigot.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  8. Jane S.

    Matthew 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: Then come follow me.

    This article is fine, but it forgot to say what to do after you get your 11 Minah's.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • STLBroker

      Jesus said that to a person that had just bragged that he had never broken a commandment. I got the sense it was Jesus's way of humbling the man since obviously Jesus knew that the man would not be willing to sell everything that he owned. A lot of people like to mention his next line "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to go to heaven" and they neglect to mention his next quote "through man it is not possible but through God all things are possible". Elsewhere in the Bible it explains that "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil". So I think the point of this particular exchange given the context and the entirety of the bible is that it is not a sin to have money, it is a sin to LOVE money.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • downthehatch

      @stlBROKER: Well, isn't that convenient.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  9. This is Disgusting

    Yea but Harry Potter and Robinson Crusoe would totally be on board with the occupiers!

    But seriously, how dare someone talk about how Jesus would feel about this stuff? I don't know if Jesus actually existed and I don't wan't to make this a debate as to his divinity, but can't we all agree that we as mortals have no business invoking such BS as this article? Same on you CNN for even allowing this article to see the light of day.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  10. Larry@68

    Baby Jesus wants all of us to be hedge fund managers, it's in the Bible. Look it up for yourself

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  11. chad

    OH MY GOD....seriously? You sir are an ass.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  12. SeanNJ

    Am I the only one that's willing to pay a few dollars more in taxes so that I don't have to help anyone directly? Really?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  13. DL

    Mr. Perkins chose an excellent parable to demonstrate how power has the potential to corrupt the powerful. Jesus brought the good news to the disenfranchised of his time, gently, firmly and non-violently.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  14. SAM FROST

    let's exploite how much money tony perkins brings in from misguided indiviuals. Here's a CHALLENGE: Post Mr. Perkins Portfolio for everyone to see. Why? Just because....

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  15. amazed2

    Seems to me that there is something somewhere in the Bible about the riich getting into heaven..............

    And republicanism is light years apart from true Christianity.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  16. Jon

    This author makes the same mistake so many willfully blind republicans make - that the poor are poor because it is their fault. Guess what, buddy, Jesus did NOT teach this. That was something many Jews of the time believed, and Jesus SPECIFICALLY was overturning. The author would have seen this if he had focussed on, say, any of the other 90% of the Gospels. This author is not just an idiot, he gravely misleads the faithful.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  17. Muloirea

    When has the Family Research Council ever taken the moral high-ground?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  18. chrissy333

    I've posted 3 comments and have seen none of them. What's up CNN?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  19. MIke Daniels

    I think Mr. Perkins needs to go back and re-read the scriptures a few more times.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  20. God is Love

    Tony Perkins? Really? LOL!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:10 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.