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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. Shane G

    Tony Perkins and his 'crew' is one of the most anti-gay groups out there and FRC has been declared a 'HATE GROUP' by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010. Why is CNN letting him run 'specials' on their website????

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  2. Voxhumana

    Someone doesn't know their New Testament. Don't you remember Jesus as a 12 year old, throwing the "money changers" out of the Temple? Doesn't sound like Jesus liked bankers or anyone who made money through money "services." Christians who think that money and market economy is the route to redemption are woefully out of touch with the principles of Christianity. How about the passage about it being easier to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven. Someone needs to study a bit more and open his heart to the real love of Christianity. Not the self-serving greed and indulgence of a market economist.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Jeremy

      That is completely out of context. Jesus threw them out of the temple because they were doing such things inside a place of worship. The temple was considered a holy place. He did not throw them out just because they worked with money.

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

      Also, Jesus was not 12 when that happened. You are mixing two stories.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Redirect

      Perhaps my friend you need to freshen up on your reading. Jesus was not 12 when he cleared the temple of the money changers. It was during the last days of his life, just after he entered Jerusalem during passover week. As far as the incident goes, he wasn't attacking business itself but was addressing and punishing individuals (money changer) for their ungodly acts within the very temple itself.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Henry

      Voxhumana,

      Jesus was not angry because people were 'making money from money services'. There were lots of people selling all kinds animals in the temple, and he drove them all out,not just money changers. He was angry because they had turned the temple into a place of business, instead of treating it as a holy place.

      Personally, I would say that this parable applied to this discussion would translate better to "Don't treat politics like a religion'. However, that is just an opinion and it is dangerous any time you try to apply a parable to a situation it wasn't meant to address.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Henry

      By the way, Jesus befriended a tax collector, Zacchaeus. Everyone hated him because he was a tax collector and made extra profit on top of their taxes. Based on this example, it sounds like you think Jesus would join the mob of OWS and stand in judgement of the 'bankers'??? Jesus always taught the mob the error of their ways, instead of joining it. It didn't matter if the mob was made up of religious leaders or people who despised certain financial-related professions.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  3. David

    Jesus also wasn't real.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  4. J

    Just looking at this writer's face makes me want to vomit, let alone trying to read his pathetic article.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • PictureSaysItAll

      I'm placing a bet now that he likes little boys judging from the picture/. $10 says he likes en like Sandusky.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  5. San Juaninos

    Looks like Jesus had better hygiene that the occupy protestors as well...

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • Voxhumana

      Don't you recall Mary Magdelene washing Jesus' dirty feet with her tears and hair? According to the customs of the time, Jesus probably never bathed but oiled himself. Bathing was probably limited to swimming while fishing. But of course, Jesus walked on water, so he probably never got very wet.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  6. Judas

    Jesus... The original televangelist. Who cares what Jesus would do, we live in a real world now, not one where we turn water to wine, walk on water, or rise from the dead. The dead stay dead, the water stays water. GROW UP world!! Leave GOD, Santa, and the Easter Bunny out of it.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  7. ohnugget001

    This article from the man who had a political daliance with KKK President David Duke. This from a man whose Family Resource Center is a direct offshoot of hate monger James Dobson – just Google him to see his rascist, bigoted, and other disgusting crimes against humanity in the US. This from a man whose only real claim to political fame is a zealous pursuit of denying members of the gay community any legal recognition in his home state. I would take his biblical interpretation as seriously as a used car salesman's critque of the rusty brake system on a car I was contemplating buying. And that's probably unfair to the salesman.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Redirect

      ROFL. In what possible reality is Dr. Dobson a hate monger? He's a very Godly man who is not afraid to stand on the truth of the word of God.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  8. PaulNYC

    I feel sorry for Perkins and his deluded views on Christianity. I will pray that he one day rejects the love of money in favor of love for his fellow human beings.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  9. jangoodell

    Ours is not a free market. It is propped up by all sorts of laws that favor very large corporations. IT IS NOT A FREE MARKET! Nonetheless, I don't think Jesus would be a champion for what we have either. He really wasn't too political, which of course irked some...

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

    Who gives this guy (or anyone) the right, gall, presumption, whatever to speak for Jesus or anyone else? The Bible has been interpreted thousands of ways by thousands of people seeking to strengthen their own positions and power over others.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  11. Travis

    Jesus loved Jar Jar more than C-3PO or R2. I mean, isn't it OBVIOUS!?!? The bible was printed on paper, which is a by-product of the forrest rich planet of Naboo which is Jar Jar's homeworld. A droid could never win over the heart of the savior of all man anyway, how could they!

    Now I know what you're saying, Star Wars wasn't even released when Jesus died. Like that matters! Jesus was a prophet and had foreseen the epic space saga way before George Lucas was even a twinkle in his 5th generation grandfathers eye!

    Jesus was definitely a Jar Jar loving man!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  12. OuthereSomewhere

    This guy for real? Someone needs to lay off the community wine!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  13. Get a Grip

    I expected nothing less than this pathetic drivel from this little christofascist

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  14. Bob Devendorf

    Perkins is a cold blooded calculating liar who uses religion for his own ends. It's just too bad so many people aren't smart enough tp understand this.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  15. Texas Rebel

    So Jesus was a Wall Streeter huh?? This guy needs to be crucified upside down and forced to eat dog crap.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  16. Louis

    heTony Perkins should quote the word of JESUS in Mathew 6-5 only then twill he know the true Hypocritres.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  17. Fred

    It's amazing how broad a brush we tend to paint a group. Do you think all the "Occupiers" are destroying public property and are lazy or out of work? In my opinion Jesus was the biggest bleeding heart Liberal of his time. It's "Christians" like this guy who put their own spin on the Bible that has destroyed the true meaning of Christianity. Jesus was not an Economist nor a Politician. You Jackhole!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  18. alex chapman

    Want to read a message of blatant Socialism Mr. Perkins ? Open your New Testament to Acts 2,44. The post Crucifixion followers of Jesus sold all of their possessions & divided the the $ among themselves according to each one's need.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Jacob

      That is communal living, not socialism. People in a free democratic capitalist society have every right to participate in communal living. Or in religion – or not.

      Socialism would have been if they tried to overthrow the government and put people into place who would FORCE other people to 'share' their stuff with the ruling party so they might take some of it and give it to people that those in power deem worthy. HUGE difference.

      The Bible says heaven will look like a lot like communism, minus the atheism. Unfortunately, trying to recreate that on earth by force with sinful selfish people is closer to hell.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  19. Randy Buist

    Corresponding with Mr. Perkins via Facebook last week, I am disappointed to read this column. While the Family Research Council was once 'pro-life' in the best of senses, it has evolved into a wing of the Republican party that is neither pro-life nor honest with its quotations of the biblical text. "Occupy until I come' refers living into the ways of Jesus so that love for God and love for neighbor become primary to what it means to be human. This parable had nothing to do with a free market system.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  20. David Gillespie

    Once again the so called religious in our country show themselves to be heartless hypocrites and lackeys of the Republican Party. A person would have to have no idea what Jesus taught to see no connection to the values of the Occupy movement. Unfortunately it mirrors what I have seen in my life, all the worst people I have known have been big church goers. Heartless,corrupt and making no effort to practice or even try to learn about what Jesus said. People, like Tony Perkins, that claim to speak for Jesus must make Him sick.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:17 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.