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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. Shawnathan

    King James Version Matthew 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, Matthew 21:13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves. Matthew 21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

    King James Version Matthew 5:1-12 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them, saying: 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    4Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
    5Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
    6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
    7Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
    8Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
    9Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called sons of God.
    10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    All that other stuff you spouted is a j-o-k-e... your book King James black & white. Peace!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  2. Benjamin

    I'm not sure Tony Perkins knows what the Occupy movement actually is. This paragraph alone reeks of ignorance:

    "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?"

    Furthermore, there was no such thing as a 'free market system' 2,000 years ago, so the idea that Jesus "chose" it is one disgusting way to spit in the face of everything he preached - not least of which was how a rich man has a lower chance of going to hell as a camel can 'go through the eye of the needle.' Jesus doesn't want you to be fabulously wealthy, so why would he 'choose' a system that would make it so?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  3. science 101

    In my opinion Jesus Christ never actually existed. You're just making stuff up Tony.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  4. RES

    Jesus was not a neo-con t-bagger!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  5. Beth H.

    Funny, I just heard this in our gospel a few weeks ago and after Mass I told my husband the first thing I thought of was the Occupy Wall Street people. Not using their gifts very well.

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

      I'm sorry, what gifts would those be? I suppose you consider the ample free time of joblessness a gift? Perhaps homelessness is a gift, as you get so much fresh air and the rent is reasonable? What "gifts" do they have that they are wasting in your opinion?
      Their voice? That's definitely being used well.
      Their anger, now that's a gift that is being used too.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • W247

      James 1 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

      How much did Jesus complain about His situation? How much did the Pharisees and Saducee's complain about their situation?

      December 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  6. Snaz

    Isn't Tony Perkins a "Gingrich Catholic"?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  7. Ferg

    That's great that you have an opinion on what Jesus would have done. Only problem is that you're not him. So it doesn't mean anything.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  8. The Captain

    More proof that right wing christians in the US worship Adam Smith more than Jesus Christ.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Forever focused

      woe unto those who cause others to stumble. This argument never deserved to be published.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  9. Kathy

    Jesus created a movement! he was an activist! and he only knew and practiced and preached wellness & love.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  10. Sam

    This is the loosest argument I've ever read. Do you seriously think Jeses would be sipping Pepsi and day-trading?

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

      Nope. Coke.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Kyle

      Jesus sure would not be as jealous and envious as the Occupy people. They are just whining that someone has more than them, but Jesus would never be so petty.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Terry

      Yeah, right!!! We all know how Jesus felt about the money changers.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • ComSenseWiz

      What Jesus would do ranks right up there with village idiots screaming in the night. In other words, a completely worthless and irrelevant opinion.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Moderate Christian

      This guy seems to think so. What a dolt.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  11. Phyllis

    Have we forgotten that Jesus is reported to have tossed a bunch of businessmen out of the temple? Admittedly, it was the *temple*, but that is more like the occupiers than certain folks are comfortable with. Those folks would be the ones who have subverted Jesus' religion in the name of profit, just like . . .

    December 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • read the bible

      Yep. He effectively occupied the temple.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  12. read the bible

    So does the parable about the property owner paying all workers in the field the same wage even though some worked since morning and others worked only in the evening make Jesus a socialist?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  13. Truth Hurts

    Never said this before on the CNN Blog, but this is the stupidest opinion piece that I've read in the history of CNN. First, anyone who claims to know how a person who lived thousands of years ago to modern day socio economic conditions is delusional. Second, the biblical Jesus, whether fictional or real, trashed a few places in his time including at least one temple. I get that this is an opinion piece, but let's not pretend that these are facts.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Brownie2

      Well said. These are "facts" according to the religious far right. I wonder what Mr. Perkins thinks Jesus would have thought of the tea party? At least the Occupy Movement can lay claim to some Christian principles.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Brownie2

      Mr. Perkins is revealing the concern of his heart when he equates Jesus' call to "invest our lives" with monetary gain. If Mr. Perkins wanted to put this parable in a Christian perspective, her would know that Jesus is calling his followers to invest their lives, not in monetary gain, but in the lives of others to bring them into Jesus' kingdom. The monetary system is used simply because Christ knew it was something familiar to his listeners. Sadly, Mr. Perkins' mind goes only to the $$$$ and CNN gave Perkins a soapbox.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  14. John

    I wonder if Santa Claus supports OWS! Any comments on that? And what about pinochio? And the tooth fairy huh???

    December 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  15. the_dude

    Everyone knows Jesus hates liberals. It is common knowledge.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  16. CJ

    Jesus did not spend his time with the rich as he spent most of his time with common people and at synagogue.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  17. Vivia McPeace

    PURE BIGOTRY AND HATRED!

    December 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Kyle

      LOL, nope, it is you that is clearly the racist

      December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  18. John N Florida

    Labeled as a 'Hate Group' by the SPLC, why would any one take this bozo's opinion on anything. He's just a second cousin to that Great Hater, Adolph Hitler.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  19. Dasein

    I just love the way the "reasonable" believers dismiss the conservative nutjob as uninformed. It's alright to believe in fairy tales as long as your belief is "enlightened."

    December 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • LibsSuck

      Its ok to disdain relgion as many marxist communists have they all claim to be "enlgihtened" also, more human beings have been murdered by athiests like Stalin, Lenin and Mao than by any Christians that used religion for their own purposes (the evil of men not religion).
      Tell me how you fair when you face death how arrogant you will be then...........

      December 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  20. lhpogo

    Admit it... Jesus was a hippie: love everyone, share and share alike, treat people as you want to be treated. He was not a free market captain of industry. If anyone, Judas was the free marketer. He sold out his buddy for 30 pieces of silver. I think Donald Trump would have done it for 15.

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

      Now that is very funny.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Rosemary Peppercorn

      Agree that Jesus was a hippie and Trump would sell his soul if it improved ratings for his TV show. But might I add: Jesus was gay. You KNOW he was.

      And might I add: Republicans always know what Jesus would say and do and how he would vote in American presidential elections. Republicans are, after all, special, magical people.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:57 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.