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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. CarefulThought

    Eye of a space needle is delusional.

    The Book says what it says and even Eye can read it. "turn a quick profit" is nothing like what was described. What Eye is doing is called a "straw man argument" it means that since he can't win the argument as put forth by the Family Research council, he'll try to CHANGE the argument that they're making into one he can indeed beat. No one said anything about turning a quick profit or hiding money from taxes in a Caymen Island account. (The Clintons currently have $50 million in a Cayman bank for such reasons)

    Now, let me address Eye's true view of Jesus.

    Eye seems to be asserting that since Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes to feed two crowds adding up to 9,000 people, that that apparently supports his argument? I can only imagine that he's saying that Rich people should then SUPPORT less rich people. Here's where he's wrong- he never read the story. Jesus didn't multiply the loaves and fishes because those people were poor and couldn't' fend for themselves! They were away from home listening to him preach and He wanted to make it easier for them to stay longer. Quite a luxury, actually. They all had food at home, presumably. The loaves and the fishes were not welfare.

    I believe in our modern society, welfare can exist and is a beautiful expression of man's care for each other, a reflection of God's love for man. BUT, I would assert that more than half of the people receiving welfare have the ability to work their way out of that need, and the same goes for social security disability.

    As for this article, I think he hit the nail on the head.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Jeremy

      "I would assert that more than half of the people receiving welfare have the ability to work their way out of that need, and the same goes for social security disability." That would be remarkable if you had any facts to prove it. Your own subjective beliefs, most likely based on nothing more than statements by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, don't qualify as facts.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  2. H. E. Fosdick

    Seems Jesus did a pretty good job of "occupying" the temple - and with a whip, no less. Those free-marketing moneychangers and pigeon-salesmen got a taste of regulation, and he made them like it.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • Hypatia

      THANK YOU and amen!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • CarefulThought

      Wrong. The temple was hardly an example of free markets. It was an example of disgust for people exploiting sincere people. They didn't care about the goings on at the temple, they'd made the temple into just a place to sell birds for sacrifice, etc.

      The scourge of cords shows a couple things: Jesus wasn't the namby-pamby blue-eyed German Jesus from the TV movie, Jesus of Nazareth. He was a real man, and very passionate.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  3. DWW

    The Occupy Movement isn't about people who want to do nothing, it's about people who think that people that mop floors, write books, or teach children should make a living wage and be valued just as much (or more) than hedge fund managers. This guy is either totally out of touch or a pawn of the fat cats that have a vested interest (monetary, that is) in the status quo.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  4. Joe

    Mr. Perkins overlooks the spiritual meaning of the parable. It parable about developing spiritually not economically. It was not a political/economic treatise. It had a practical everyday context to facilitate an understanding of the teaching for a deeper meaning. I hardly think Jesus was trying to support an economic system.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • xyx25

      How ignorant!!!!!!! and how blinded!!!!!!!!!!!
      Jesus is not talking about the money here. Blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT. (broken heart over their sin).
      Jesus asked them to occupy not with money but WITH SPREADING THE GOSPEL.
      Actually this is a SIGN Of TIMES. People will be busy with "business" and "cares of the world" in the last days.
      Matthew 24:38-39 "38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

      December 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • foxfire

      Mr. Perkins and his council, where he draws a big fat salary and benefits, is full od BS. It is all about himself and anytime any news agency will give him a spot to blow off he will take it.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  5. Christine

    Jesus didn't support a free market system because the concept didn't exist. That's like saying he loved Google. My guess is he would not have had an opinion because his concerns were not rooted in pettiness. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's". Shall we connote then that Jesus was telling us all to be good little taxpayers? Or perhaps he was saying he had larger issues to worry about. Or how about when he said "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.” Does this mean he thought the rich were sinful creatures unworthy of heaven's reward?" Anyone can cherry pick a parable or quote to support whatever they want. The sad part is that people do it all the time for political points. It's gross. I'm not a Christian but I still find it offensive. Mr. Perkins should be ashamed.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  6. Ellis

    Beware of the deceivers, they preach in His name and pretend to be followers. However, we know them by their fruits.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  7. Mr. Butters

    So according to Tony Perkins Jese would give millions of dollars in bonus' while families are kicked out on the street? That is what the movement (at least originally) was about. Is that bank were given almost a trillion dollars, and they line their own pockets. And here I thought greed was a sin.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • CarefulThought

      Sounds like you're parroting the Communist Manifesto. Is it wrong to pay your employees according to the original agreement just because someone else somewhere in the world is without food? You guys use the word "Bonus" like it's stolen money. Most guys at that level get paid a smaller salary, then get a profit-sharing bonus if the company they're working with does well. We look at it like it's above and beyond what they were expecting to make, and therefore raw opulence.

      I have no use for communism. We had communism at a job I worked at once: I was a waiter, and every once in a while, they'd say, "Hey, it's going to be slow tonight- let's POOL TIPS."

      HECK NO! I would say. They only said that when I was working with them, because I worked hard, gave great service, sold bottles of wine, and desserts and had a great disposition. I made far and away more tips than they did. The one or two times I got snookered into pooling tips, I watched as they all did their half-hearted effort, then at the end of the night when we pooled our tips, they basically took what I made over the average, and split it amongst themselves. Is that fair? No, and it's not even good for THEM. There is no incentive to work harder, and for me there was no incentive to continue to work hard. Instead of everyone striving to work as hard as I did, and us ALL making more money for our time there, we all deflated down to THEIR level off effort and low pay. Hey- being lackluster and lazy doesn't show a virtuous disregard for the trappings of wealth, it's just lackluster and lazy.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  8. Bob

    The abuses seen on wall street are absolutely an intrinsic part of free market capitalism. What do you think it means to do whatever will make the most money(which is the hallmark of the free-market ideology)? It means exactly what it sounds like, do WHATEVER possible as long as it will make you a lot of money even if it is illegal, immoral, or causes other people to lose some or all of their money.
    Jesus would not support wall street today for Jesus said in Matthew 19:24: "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.". So just because Christianity has sold itself out to the wealthy(according to R.H.S. Crossman this happened during the Reformation period in Europe (p.31)) does not mean that Jesus did or ever would have

    Ask yourself what Jesus really would do!!!!!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  9. Hypatia

    So does the idiot responsible for this piece of trash think Mr. Jesus would be siding with the likes of Newtie or Bachmann overhype?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  10. jc

    Why would CNN print this facist drivel?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Alan

      Seriously.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  11. gypsyboomer

    Really? Seriously? Jesus as a free marketer? What has this fool been smoking?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Hypatia

      He's snorting Comet.

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

    The Gospels preach the rejection of materialism. The claim that Jesus cared about, let alone favored, people making money on Earth is one of the greatest lies ever told about the Bible. It's telling that Perkins has to dissect an obscure passage in Luke to make his point while he ignores Jesus's better-known statements about a camel passing through the eye of a needle, "blessed are the poor," forsaking material things (and one's own family if necessary) to follow Jesus, expelling the moneychangers from the Temple, "render unto Caesar," and the many other passages that tell readers to place no importance on personal wealth.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Steve Sybesma

      I wouldn't want the conservatives to find out that Jesus didn't live in house and was poor. They might get a conscience. They live in McMansions, drive large SUVs and basically wonder why you have a miserable look on your face when you're out in the cold freezing. I say don't let those evil , greedypeople get a clue. They (along with Perkins) will get theirs someday.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  13. Chuck

    In Joshua 5 and 6, the night before the famous battle of Jericho, Joshua has a little trouble sleeping, so he gets up to take a little walk. At one point, he comes across a soldier he did not recognize in full battle dress with his sword drawn. This soldier "had the drop" on Joshua. Joshua asked him, "Are you with us or our enemies?"

    The soldier replies, "I am the commander of the Lord's Army."

    In other words, God is not with us or our enemies. God does not take sides. He is a side to be taken.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • MJ Shaw

      "He is a side to be taken..."

      Absolutely love that. Thank you.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  14. Tom De Nolf

    that is the biggest loud i have read in a long time. really CNN?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  15. Judy75201

    I'm not a religious person, and even I can see this article for the manipulative BS it is.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  16. Sybaris

    Wow, this is like saying Pippi Longstocking would object to the occupy Wall Street movement

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  17. Loren

    Isn't "sloth" one of the 7 deadly sins? Again, I think you are all refusing to see the grey area here. I am not saying that everyone needs to make money. It isn't about money. It is about using the talents God gave you and not expecting a hand out. Sorry, but the Occupiers are going to have to show a different face if they are going to convince me that they are doing anything other than whining and complaining.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Jon

      Loren, you are making the same mistake the author is making - assuming that all poor people are poor because they are lazy. THEY ARE NOT, and you should be ashamed for assuming you know that.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Alan

      Loren, Occupy Los Angeles helped to pass the unanimous resolution to end Corporate Personhood in the City Council today...in less than 3 months of Occupying. It sounds like that whining and complaining has turned into civil action. Apparently it's more fun to sit back, do nothing, and use corporate talking points than actually contributing anything to the conversation that would be useful on either side of the argument.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • ODC

      Yes, and Jesus was SOOO against handouts . . . but wait! what about the whole loaves and fishes thing. He has his disciples handout FREE food to people sitting around who have no other way to get it... If only he had realized the profit to be made when you control the means of production! Jesus, Inc. could have made a fortune! *Sigh* instead, he handed it out and lectured against holding evil thoughts towards others... It is not sinful to want the sharing of food and fish, it's sinful to think evil of others. Matthew 14-15.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  18. J.W

    None of the Christians on here are true Christians. Also, none of the atheists on here are true atheists. You people are not true anythings. You are all true phonies is what you are.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  19. charlie

    One phrase comes to mind, RIGHT WING BULLDINKY!!!! this person obviously has co-opted scripture to HIS BENEFIT, like most right-wings do.....SAD.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  20. Josh

    So, Jesus would've taken the side of the banks and the greedy?

    -_-

    December 6, 2011 at 4:12 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.