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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. NotAhippie

    Is Mr. Perkins purposefully bending the truth or just stupid? Minus the minority "far left" pinkos/commies, the majority of occupiers are angry about the corruption and continued corruption that has gotten us to this point. To all you people hating on the occupiers you are in your own stupid special way saying you are okay with corruption. If you like corporate/government collusion/corruption then maybe Mexico is the place for you.

    I think most of us occupy supporters want a free market but we just need more oversight and transparency. George W. Bush eliminated much of this oversight (as imperfect as it was). As they say to us, If you have nothing to hide then what do you have to be afraid of?

    December 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  2. Bob

    This guy has absolutely no clue about what Jesus taught.
    I disagree completely with him. Jesus instructed people to be no part of this world
    because it was corrupt to the core. Jesus himself was a revolutionary who despised
    the rulers of the day because they twisted his teachings, exactly as done in this article.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Joshua Powell

      We all know that Jesus Christ would of not been behind criminals who took hard working people's tax money and used it to help elites who MADE BAD DECISIONS. Jesus Christ was a man who thought hard work was beautiful and a man who thought that corruption was a plague on the people of this earth. You seen what he did in the temple to the men collecting taxes. He was a preacher of peace and ANYONE WHO ACTUALLY READS THE BIBLE sees he was not the devil mongering, evil minded man that corporate elites and the confused preach that he was. Jesus Christ would of been behind a people movement because he was for the people from the BOTTOM UP....."it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven".....doesn't seem like what this guy is talking about. I will pray for people who have been blinded by the corrupt, blinded by evil, and have lost the courage to challenge corruption which is what America was built on. I hope someday I see the land of the free rise against this corrupt government and corporations who have ruined our image in the world and our economy.....

      December 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bob

      Jesus is long dead and rotted away. Move along now.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  3. Notbuyingit

    "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." How convenient. Using Gods "word" to justify taking from the poor to give to the rich. I don't think Jesus would agree. Didn't Jesus heal the sick (for free!) and feed the masses? Sounds like some early examples of "social programs". And didn't Jesus chase the moneychangers out of the temple? Tony Perkins is just another person who uses God/religion to enrich himself. I was going to call him a hypocrite, but I think he truely believes the rich are special in God's eye, and that they deserve even more. Well then, consider this, the Bible also says in Matthew 19:24
    "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God".

    December 6, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

      =======read bible carefully,,,please,,,,,,,,,,,,

      December 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      If Matthew deposit the money in Wall Street,,,,,,,,,,,he's done:)

      December 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  4. Rev. Jason

    Jesus was most certainly not a free marketer. If anything he was a mix between a 'free' market (there is no such thing as a real free market – just ask the corporate wealthy who receive billions in welfare) and socialism although not government sponsored – but rather from people's hearts. Jesus wasn't really about any human system working; he was about our hearts being transformed and God's heart, Scripture makes clear, is on the side of the poor and the oppressed. Those who are rich materially are warned again and again that they risk the fires of hell if they do not use their wealth to alleviate suffering and help others. You cannot serve both God and Money – it doesn't get much clearer. This guy has his theological head up his physical azz.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Bob

      Amen brother!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • fred

      Bob
      Two more get out hell free cards for you!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  5. mark

    Oh I see, so like Jesus was occupied with the business of overturning the tables of the money changers at the temple,
    we too should be occupied with business? Got it. Ok, well that's what we're doing.
    -------------
    "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?

    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."

    December 6, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Rich

      Jesus stands in solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet

      http://t.co/qK9x9eRv

      December 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  6. ObamaJoe

    Anthony Richard "Tony" Perkins (born March 20, 1963) is president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think tank and public policy foundation based in Washington, D.C. Perkins formerly resided in Baker in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, when he served two terms as a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Joshua Powell

      We all know that Jesus Christ would of not been behind criminals who took hard working people's tax money and used it to help elites who MADE BAD DECISIONS. Jesus Christ was a man who thought hard work was beautiful and a man who thought that corruption was a plague on the people of this earth. You seen what he did in the temple to the men collecting taxes. He was a preacher of peace and ANYONE WHO ACTUALLY READS THE BIBLE sees he was not the devil mongering, evil minded man that corporate elites and the confused preach that he was. Jesus Christ would of been behind a people movement because he was for the people from the BOTTOM UP....."it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven".....doesn't seem like what this guy is talking about. I will pray for people who have been blinded by the corrupt, blinded by evil, and have lost the courage to challenge corruption which is what America was built on. I hope someday I see the land of the free rise against this corrupt government and corporations who have ruined our image in the world and our economy.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Pokydoke

      Tony Perkins is a religiously motivated dirt bag who wants to impose his particular brand of morality on all of us. Too bad there is not a hell, for surely he would burn in it.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Steve

    Tony-

    Please go back 3 verses in your Bible and touch on that text. Zacheus is a rich man who upon meeting Jesus sells half of what he has and gives it to take care of the poor and offers to pay back four fold anything he has fraudulently gained. They may be out there, but I have not heard of any of the parties involved in the mortgage debacle making such offers.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • OrangeW3dge

      Warren of Omaha

      December 6, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Me

      The Bible was never meant to be taken as historic fact. These are only stories meant to make us stop and think.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  8. Daniel

    Jesus is not real

    December 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • OrangeW3dge

      Most certainly Jesus was real. Just like the Muslims and Jews acknowledge. And He was a great Profit. But the words attributed to Him may not be His own. In fact Jesus claimed that he was NOT the Son of God when he tells his followers that only they have said that he is. What matters is the people actually live their lives according to what they say, and not just say the words "trippingly on the tongue"...

      December 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • jstan442

      no–daniel is not real-Jesus is an historical figure–please go check up on this for yourself–He is the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world- whereas the owies only want what is not theirs–i believe one of the commandments is not to covet and that is exactly what the owies do covet what they do not have and will not work for!!!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Almost

      What an ignorant comment. Jesus of Nazareth was an actual person, no credible scholar debates that. Your comment might have merit if you had posted "Jesus wasn't divine," or something along those lines. But good luck convincing people of that.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  9. Patrick

    Actually sir, the early church was more socialist that it was capitalist, each shared of what they had so that all were taken care of and no one counted any of his possessions as his own. But we won't go there. The message is about stewardship, something capitalism has destroyed in it's desire to have more and own more. Stewardship is about not only money but about the earth. Maybe you should read the parable about the man in Luke 12:13-21, it might help you to understand greed. Owning all that he had was not a sin not sharing it with the poor was. Wake up and stop trying to use Jesus to make yourself feel better.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  10. ObamaJoe

    Dam,,this is the funniest for today,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, 🙂

    December 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  11. Mark

    To CNN: Why would you post an article by the leader of a recognized hate group?

    December 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Pokydoke

      Unlike FNS, CNN reports all the news not just what suits their agenda.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  12. Mary

    In my opinion this entire article is blasphemy. Our Lord and Saviour is not an icon whose name can be tossed around when politically convenient and for political purposes. Whoever wrote this article should be ashamed to use the name of Jesus for their greedy agenda. Whether or not the Lord would support the Occupy movement is neither here nor there. If any of us have an interest in Jesus' opinion, we should pray, not rely on anyone else to tell us what Jesus thinks or would think about anything! Shame on you!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Me

      Sort of like going to church. Only here, you don't pay the preacher to scold you.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • John

      You are on a planet called Earth. It orbits a star called the Sun, which is in the center or our solar system. That solar system is on the edge of a galaxy called the Milky Way. The Milky Way galaxy is one of millions or even billions of galaxies that contain solar systems and other planets and stars. They all make up what we call the Universe, of which there may be many of, if not millions and billions. There's a lot of beings out there, trillions of them, all on different kinds of planets all over our Universe. If you were to land on one of their planets, and they worshipped a "god" that they called Mantra, and it was said that he saved the world from sin, and he road a white horse and had a sword of gold, would you think they were crazy? And possibly try to convince them you knew about another "god" called Jesus? Or would you let them be? It's hard for me to fathom this kind of storytelling from grown adults but they do it. And they seem very adamant about these things. It surely is a strange world, and I don't know what to make of it. But I think Abraham Lincoln said it best, "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion." Gods have been around since the beginning of time but I think it would be best for man to focus on man and build a better world, rather than worshiping gods.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  13. waterman

    "free market system that rewards diligence, even though it is occasionally abused"

    Understatement of the year.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  14. DB

    Jesus wouldn't like the Occupy movement? Oh. Well I guess I'll just stop protesting all that inequality now. Jesus apparently likes trading in Credit Default Swaps and Collaterallized Debt Obligations too. He dislikes poor families living in homes. Gotta earn it, baby!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  15. Toto

    IPretty lame to co-opt Jesus to match your own political views, regardless if you're an Occupier or a Tea-Partier. When Jesus was on Earth, many Jews were hoping that he would free them from the rule of Rome...seems that people were trying to co-opt Him into their political views even then.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  16. Anders

    Blessed are you:
    the poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
    that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.
    that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
    when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Luke 6: 20-22

    Woe unto you:[2]
    that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
    that are full now! for ye shall hunger.
    that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
    when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.
    Luke 6:24-26

    Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. - Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:23-25

    December 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  17. Birdman

    Prosperity Gospel truisms straight from the source. We have even "Americanized" Jesus and his teachings to our economic system. Of course capitalism is a nature state for human affairs and prosperity, but so is the social welfare of the group. Bringing Jesus into all this discourse in nonsense, but the Mega-Churches need their parishoners to understand that profit and capital keep them in business. Tony Perkins is a sham of a human being. Ask his old buddy Jack Abramoff. And CNN's endless crusade for objectivity is disgusting. I particularly like that hateful, ginger balloon Erik Erikkson they peddle out every night in the name of fairness.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  18. TS

    This has to rank as the most absurd and ridiculous attempt to justify unrestrained unenlightenend capitalism with a Biblical quote that I have ever seen, not to mention the twisting of a Biblical parody about doing the most good possible with the gifts given to us instead to "Use money to make money and you will go to Heaven". For shame!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  19. Larry

    what free markets? you're joking, right? That's the point.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  20. T G

    I love that Perkins uses a parable from the Bible to mask the fact that he has absolutely no evidence to support the one over-arching claim of this - "While some egrerious abuses have taken place, they are not inevitable or intrinsic to free enterprise." Umm...prove it. It's one thing to make this claim, but a totally different thing to actually be able to support it with any reasonable scientific evidence.

    Yes, abuses have taken place. They were abuses OF the free market system by people with positions of high authority within the free market system. That is what the protestors resent and hope to prevent.

    However, I will add one thing. The "inevitable" and "intrinsic" flaws are in people, not the systems. People abuse the free market system just like people abuse collectivist systems. The only difference is in which people reap the benefits.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • waterman

      +1

      December 6, 2011 at 5:05 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.