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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. Keith E. Morgan Jr

    You would think that Jesus wasn't talking about spiritual matters at all when reading this article. The writer makes it sound like Jesus was teaching an economics lesson. It's a METAPHOR! The talents that were given represent the gifts of the spirit of each member of the kingdom to be used to spread the SPIRITUAL kingdom of God. Jesus said, "The love of MONEY is the root of all evil." He threw over the tables of the merchants at the temple. He said to give your money to the poor and follow him. This writer is the worst sell out I've ever seen. He should be ashamed of using the Lord's own words to blaspheme his message. He totally took the words and meaning out of context to support the modern day scribes and pharisees. This is what the religion has boiled down to. People read the words of Christ and the Apostles and seem to NEVER understand the message. There's no "good news" left in the Gospel. They think that Christ is not here to see and hear what they do, but the fact is, he NEVER LEFT! He sees and hears it ALL! This man does not realize that he will be answering for his words. He MAY have to answer to them TOMORROW. No one knows when or how the Lord will return. (In the clouds of glory with an angelic army is another metaphor.) There are those who think we are being judged NOW. I don't know, but it's possible. Just a thought.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • FowlAM

      Well said, Keith. The key is "metaphor"–a concept and device used quite effectively to separate the sincere from the insincere.
      Also, parables are used to describe deep teachings using everyday language. Fanatics are easily tripped up by parables and metaphors, as all the Prophets alluded to in their sayings, e.g., Muhammad in Surah 2:24(2:26 in some other translations).
      (Are you listening my Muslim friends?)

      December 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  2. chrissy333

    CNN is not posting my comments. So I will try a different approach.
    The Family Research Council is a conservative Christian lobbying PAC organization that advocates "family values" and socially conservative policies such as the rights of medical workers to withold contraception, "intelligent design" oppossed to evolution, abstinence education oppossed to sx education, anti-abortion, and anti-gay rights. They do not support any legal rights for gays (including civil unions) and have been listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center's hate group list. They actively deny that bullying of gay teens leads to suicide. The Washington Post posted an article that co-founder Alan Rekers hired an escort or rentboy to "carry his luggage" during a trip to Europe. Not exactly a group of people that I'd take advice from!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • family guy

      No wonder the liberal bums hate Family Research Council

      December 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • chrissy333

      Yes, because they are evil hypocrites.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  3. tms

    Obviously, people aren't protesting the economic system because it's "occasionally abused" but because it is rigged in such a way that the greatest criminals capture the greatest profits, while sinking the majority in endless debt. Tony Perkins is neither a valid spokesman for Jesus nor a rational analyst of society.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  4. STFDoor

    I wonder if I will ever cease to be amazed by these very public displays of ignorance. This guy chooses to try to stretch the contents of a highly fabricated text from a non-existent god to justify his actions, rather than relying on an innate sense of compassion, humanity and common good. Worse than that, he has found someone that has agreed to breed with him.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      just proves that man is easily influenced by others opinions.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  5. Balls McGhee

    Who is this jebus you speak of?

    December 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  6. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    A lot of people are angry and shocked that CNN posted this. But the fact is, Tony Perkins got where he is because a lot of politicians and their supporters think the same way that he does. You should only be angry about it if that was news to you–and if it's news to you, then it's CNN's job to report the news. CNN got this guy to say what he's actually thinking–that's why it's such a shock. If you want to be constructive, be angry at the politicians and their donors who listen to what this preacher says and use it to justify their actions, not at the preacher!

    December 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  7. im a jewish

    Soulja boy.tell em

    December 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  8. Jimmy

    The article starts off: My take......and finishs "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Perkins"
    So this is an opinion, just like the rest of the comments here.
    Opinions are like belly buttons everybody has one.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  9. Wallace

    lolololololol....All Jesus supposedly ever did was Occupy. Where in the entire bible does it ever describe a building he built? Did he ever say, "Blessed are the movers and the shakers..." Of course not. He was the original communist. He was all about guilt-tripping those who generated income the most effectively into supporting those who had nothing better to do with their time than sit around. Not a single Gospel ever said, "When the work day was ended..." because even back then, it was all about casting the fault for your own lack upon others.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  10. MargaretW

    Bad theology in the service of greedy politics. Makes you wonder why this guy reads the Bible, to enlighten himself or to find support for his own positions. Based in his associations in the Gospels, there's more reason to suspect Jesus would have had greater sympathy for the Samaritan (outcast) Occupiers than the Pharasaical Tony Perkins, but we can leave that sort of conclusion where it really belongs: with God. Meanwhile, I'll interpret the parables, and indeed all of the Bible, the way I always have: it's not about riches, wealth, social position; it's not about this world or material things; it's about man's spiritual existence. "what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" . . .And that comes from the Old Testament, so it's not just Christianity, it's Judaism as well.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  11. azhermit

    I am an Orthodox Roman Catholic... and I concur that this guy IS a moron. He is a typical bloviator and apologist for the depraved and godless oligarchy that is wrapped in the nationalist flag and who hate the poor... it is not God's will that his creatures suffer... it is man's sinful, selfish and depraved nature... and his willful consent to the counsel and seductions of the Princes of the Air that is the root of suffering and evil.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  12. im a jewish

    This article.is a very racist.coment. please ban him from heaven

    December 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  13. green t

    It's interesting that CNN put this commentary on the home page and I can hardly believe it. Are they going to begin providing an opposing point of view. It won't sit well with the lefties.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  14. Dooder

    Oy vey. I couldn't get past the second paragraph. Do people still believe in this Jesus nonsense? Do yourself a favor and Google 'Horus' and spend 5 minutes freeing your mind.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  15. Aethrys

    "each of us is given the same opportunity to build our lives"

    Like hell we are. I'm sure the kid in the slums of detroit gets just as many opportunities as Trump's children.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  16. AZgirl

    Absolutely! It also says in Romans 13:5 to submit to authority and in 2 Thessalonians 3:10b "...Those unwilling to work will not get to eat." Maybe instead of wasting everyone's time and productivity by protesting other people actually making money they start making their own and focus on bettering their skill or job performance.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      dude, are you judging others? doenst your jebus tell you not to do that either?

      December 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Jesus friend

      Really? They're not saying people shouldn't make money. They're saying exactly what Jesus is said to have said, "Don't be greedy." The people on Wall Street have shown extreme greed, since they hold something like 90% of the capital. Why should one percent of the country have 90% of the income/wealth? They DID NOT EARN it. It was given to them. The people that EARN THE MONEY are payed a fraction of what they are worth to a company. Saying that a company president is responsible for 100% of the success of the company means they should also share in 100% of the failure. I have yet to see that happen. I'd go on, but I doubt you'll bother to listen.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • mark

      "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

      Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

      And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"

      December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  17. DidHeReallySayThat??

    So, Tony – let me get this straight...I'm going to confirm, arbitrarily, that you belive Jesus is God. Now, free marketing is a category defined by men to describe something of this world....and you saying Jesus was a free marketer implies Jesus/God fits within a man's finite definition of something.....Thus you are saying God is not almighty b/c he can actually be encapsulated to fit within the walls of your definition ... and, again, since man made those definitions....according to you, God can be defined and categorized by man.....that would make God lesser than man. I'm going to ponder a guess and say your ego is a tad oversized and you try to justify your own narrow-minded thinking unsuccessfuly. True...the Occupy movement had a bunch of dummies venting their own frustrations without any real direction...but to say Jesus is on one side vs. the other.... You mention sprirituality in your report....only to show that you yourself don't understand the meaning of the word. God help you! Patrick – - you make some interesting points....

    December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • McCain-in-Four

      Tony would have us believe that Christ entered Jerusalem on the backs of Nubian Slaves, and that the Roman Govenor executed him out of pure spite. Anybody who rides mules are most certainly not worthy of Tony's attention!

      December 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  18. Nathan Prophet

    The Tea Party member, Tony Perkins, doesn't know what he is talking about. Jesus was executed for sedition, daring to speak out against the ruling authorities. He definitely would have been right there in the thick of things with the Occupy Movement. What did he do to the money changers in the temple? Was he for or against the disenfranchised? For or against those who exploit others? Tony Perkins needs to learn some true biblical history.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  19. Dan W

    This Tony fella must be one of the corrupt members of the church that has become addicted to money and power. Just because you say you're doing God's work doesn't actually mean that you are. I think you need to throw out your suit, head down to the thrift store and join the homeless on the street for a few years to get your mojo back, that is if you had any at all.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  20. dave

    I don't think Jesus would have praised the occupiers for being bums..... He would have said to use the talents God gave them......

    December 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Dan W

      I don't think that Jesus would have called them bums since he hung out with them on a regular basis. While he was with the homeless preaching to them I doubt he was telling them to get a job, but consoling them and trying to feed those who were starving.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:36 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.