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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. JD

    He's an idiot. Who is he to say what Christ would or wouldn't do. I am sick of all these "Christians" calling their selfish dogma Christianity. They have no idea who Christ was or what his meaning is to this world. They ride on the waves of His name to purport their own self interest. This is why people turn to aethism. I wouldn't want to follow a "Christian" life like the one they represent either. They are liars and they spread a big lie.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Skinsfan66

      Gee Whiz! You need to lighten up! He's just giving his opinion. You have yours and he has his.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  2. Michel Gagne c.m.

    "You can not serve both God and Mammon." ~ Jesus
    Mammon is the name of an ancient Deity worshiped by the Sumerians. He is the God of wealth and his name translates as "property". The Christians began to use the Holy Name of Mammon as a pejorative, a term that was used to describe greed, avarice, and unjust worldly gain in Biblical literature.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  3. patrick filliben

    ...you mean the Tony Perkins of the Family Research Program who is subsidized by the wealthy, is pro-WAR, pro-
    DEATH PENALTY( this guy LIVES to JUDGE others ), and WORSHIPS the pure HATRED of Gay Americans....?????
    SHAME on CNN publishing ANYTHING from this moron !!! ...he is to Christianity what Bin Laden was to Islam!!!!!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Shane G

      Totally Agree!!!!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  4. Rick

    Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades)... America wasnt even thought of when jesus was around. Was He? lol what a bunch of BS..

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Skinsfan66

      Jesus knew the US would be created. Remember, he's God

      December 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Shane G

      @skinsfans66 Then you are implying that everything is pre-destined if Jesus already knew about the U.S.? So we have no 'free will' if God already knows the choices we make?? We are just zombies.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  5. Skinsfan66

    'The Half Baked Lunatic' Jesus is not a 'figment of the overactive chrisitan imagination'. He was a real, living man. That has been proven without a doubt. Whether you believe him to be the Son of God is up to you but he's real whether you believe it or not.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  6. BSetFree

    John 18:36 "Jesus answered: 'My kingdom is no part of this world."

    Jesus wouldn't get involved in the world's politics (cough voting booths at churches)
    Wouldn't get involved in war (cough cough almost every religion of Christendom)

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  7. epicjourney

    When Christ asked us to give alms he did not also say we needed to make sure the recipient was 'productive'. Free market can be a great liberating tool, but we cannot judge those who are not successful in it, He did say judgement was his, ours is to love our neighbor and to give alms.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  8. Church of Suicidal

    Tony Perkins: "The central theme of Buddhism is every man for himself."

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  9. Dan Garfinkel

    Is there some reason this pinhead hasn't been struck down by a lightning bolt for his massive misrepresentation of the Gospel?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  10. Scott

    This is without a doubt one of the most pointless articles I've read on CNN in some time and that is saying something! To the author: If you are fishing for comparisons to the Occupy movement to Jesus stories, and claiming they are not taking the 'moral high ground' because they are trashing public property, perhaps you should open your New Testament again and look for the section where he opened a can of whoopass on the money changers, overturning tables and generally not being the model of a pacifist. Oh, and I think you'll find more relevance to this movement standing up to Wall Street greed than what passes for comparisons in your own article.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  11. Wow, just wow.

    This is, quite possibly, the most ridiculous "news" piece I've ever read that wasn't on The Onion. Good lord. Mr. Perkins and CNN should be apologizing to the general public for this poorly written, ill-concieved, and endlessly pointless piece of absolute garbage. Did you really need to occupy a spot on your website this badly? Honestly, empty space would have better served the public than anything that could come from this article. Ridiculous.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Shane G

      Agree!!!! Can't believe they would let a group designated as a "Hate Group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center last year; write articles for CNN.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  12. Teacher

    Tony, you based this whole article on a lie, as you state "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." . Jesus told the story about a ruler, it was not about him. If you do not understand how to read, ask a 4th grader.

    The part of the Bible you left out: "11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back." Luke 19:11

    December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  13. Blessmefathers

    Shame on CNN.

    This is LOW journalism.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  14. Matthew

    Oh the big book of multiple choice and those who will tell you what "God" thinks. Truly worse than lawyers and used car salesman.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  15. Uniter not Divider

    Jesus was a man, a liberal, a socialist and a community organizer; everything that fundamentalist Christians hate.
    Pray hard my fundamentalist neighbors. Your hypocracy is on display for all of us to see...

    December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  16. Louie

    If I am not mistaken didn't Jesus take umbrage at Jews for carrying on business in the temples of God? I'm an atheist but I respect the right of other individuals to worship as they please and I sincerely think from what I have read that Jesus was far from anything that the Right stands for in this country.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  17. logicalchris

    By this logic we should have taken the rest of the money away from the banks when they failed. This might be one of the worst articles I have ever read in it's intellectual shortcomings. Also, stop misrepresenting the Occupy movement. To my knowledge people aren't asking for handouts, they are asking for opportunity to work.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Doug

      Exactly!!! And they're calling for the prosecution of the criminals on wall street... never once have I heard an Occupier say, "Give me free money, I'm poor!!"

      December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  18. Jeff W Welch

    I think you're drawing too many connections that really aren't there. The parable is meant to motivate the disciples to be bold and spread his message, to do more than merely experience it personally. The economic comparison is merely an analogy.

    If asked about his stance on the Occupy movement, I believe Jesus would have something to the effect of "The rich will become richer and the poor, even what they do have will be taken from them....Strive first for the Kingdom of God and the rest will be given to you....But woe to you rich men, for you have received your comfort!"

    December 6, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  19. Shane G

    I say OCCUPY Family Research Council in Washington D.C. Let them know we are down with their hateful rhetoric and will no longer put up with it.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  20. habberdash

    He's telling his disciples to evangelize His word, not become hedge fund managers.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:20 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.