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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. Ungodly Discipline

    Ungodly Discipline

    Top 10 cults:
    1. Christians / Jesues
    2. The Manson Family / Charles Manson
    3. Aum Shinrikyo / Shoko Asahara
    4. Forever Family / Stewart Traill
    5. Islam / Mohammad
    6. Raëlism / Claude Vorilhon
    7. The Branch Davidians / Koresh
    8. Heaven’s Gate / Do
    9. Morman / Joseph Smith
    10. Unification Church / Moon

    Feel free to add your own!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Terry Gold

      OK, I'll add my own to your list. Whatever you espouse. It is obvious you drank someone's kool-aid.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • "Corrections and Retractions"

      Jesus

      December 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • fedup99

      How about me? Im an Antagonist.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Almost

      Combine Mormon and Christian and add Atheists as #2.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • "Corrections and Retractions"

      Terry Gold
      I don't understand your comment.

      fedup99
      Good for you.

      Almost
      Mormons and Christians are too different to combine. Athiesm is not a cult.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @Almost, a cult is defined as a system of religious veneration and devotion directed to a particular figure or object. Clearly, atheists worship no figure or object, therefore cannot be considered a cult. Also I agree with @Ungodly Discipline, mormonism is far too extreme and new to be considered the same as christianity.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  2. ashrakay

    What a big shock... religion working in tandem with politics and the media in an attempt to control the masses. "BAAAAAA" said the sheeples!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  3. Chuck88888

    If you have the means to read this post (i.e. you have electricity, own a computer, a roof over your head, freetime on your hands), you are part of the richest 1% of human history. When speaking of the rich, Jesus is talking about YOU! So, be careful not to condemn the rich so flippantly, because you maybe condeming yourself.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • chrissy333

      While our society is well off as a whole, we are NOT the top 1%. Last time I checked I didn't have a million dollars in my bank account!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • fedup99

      God, er I mean Jesus, this is a stupid remark.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Chuck88888

      @Chrissy – when compared to the 400 billion souls that have existed throughout 5,000 years of human history, you and I are part of the 1%. If you a million dollars in the bank you are part of the 0.001%.

      On Judgement Day, I think a peasent from ancient Peru is going to be scratching his head when you deny you were "rich".

      December 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  4. Hunter

    "While working as campaign manager for Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins in 1996, Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list, and then tried to hide involvement with Duke, sending payment to Duke through a third party. The campaign was fined $3,000 for trying to hide the payment." –Wikipedia...

    Not doing any research, CNN? Or does this guy's opinions mean nothing to you? Sensationalist journalism at it's greatest!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  5. Tim

    Tony Perkins? The FRC is a designated hate group by the SPLC.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Perkins_(politician)

    While working as campaign manager for Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins in 1996, Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list, and then tried to hide involvement with Duke, sending payment to Duke through a third party. The campaign was fined $3,000 for trying to hide the payment. [13]

    December 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • fedup99

      Figures.Same republicans. The old southern Dixiecrats (were democrats)that switched parties in the 60's and became republicans (the party of hate) because they were against ending segregation and civil rights legislation that then senator Lyndon Johnson (democrat) was trying to get thru congress.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  6. XAQ

    This guy showed his hand when he characterized the poor as "choos[ing] to be unproductive". That is a conservative line on the poor just a incorrect as their assertion that people choose to be gay. Yes, I suppose you could choose to be unproductive (unlike being gay), but that is a grossly inaccurate stereotype of poor people. Usually poor people are poor for lack of education, not lack of drive. This is something that Newt, in spite of his massive head, has yet to be able to wrap is brain around, and this author is no different.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      I think he meant the "occupiers", not the poor.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Stella

      He isn't talking about the poor. He's talking about the Occupiers. Those aren't the same things. The Occupiers are not legitimate representatives of anything or anyone. I read quotes from Occupiers who said they quit jobs to join the movement. That's the mentality he speaks of in the article and he's absolutely right.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • fedup99

      The so called "occupiers" are probably the most legitimate group out there. No central fixation, no central leader, just people fed up.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      The lack of central leadership, to the extent that it isn't largely a media fiction, is a small point in favor of the occupiers. But the fact remains that they have almost nothing constructive to say about anything. Bleating that the top 1% are richer than most of us, which is true by definition, says nothing non-tautological and the notion that raising taxes on these people will significantly improve the economy or even significantly reduce the deficit is bunk. And while I tend to agree that more equitable income distribution would do some significant good, I don't see how anything the occupiers are doing will ever even affect that. It comes off as a bunch of fairly immature acting out.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  7. Fred Evil

    Sorry, leader of hate group says WHAT?
    More importantly, WHO CARES??
    You are no longer relevant Perkins.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  8. chrissy333

    I don't know these protesters personally. Most of them seem like young people just out of college and unemployed. Most companies aren't hiring new grads. Most of them don't have so many responsibilities so I guess they have the time to protest. I'm actually glad that they are protesting, because I can't because I have to work to support my family. But I still support them because many people I work with have been let go due to budget cuts. Our middle class is disappearing and there is a growing disparity between the rich and poor. Those of you who do have jobs should be grateful and support the people who are fighting corruption and greed.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Guitar

      Thank You Chrissy, these young folks give me hope. With 18% of population out of work, the 'Job Creators' only creating jobs over seas at 1/10 pay while reaping record profits, there needs to be some movement back to protest. Last week on Public Radio, a retired Police Chief from Philadelphia was standing tall along side the protesters. He stated: ..'the problem he is seeing is that his fellow officers aren't stopping to realize, THEY TOO are part of the 99%!" Unless someone is a millionaire, THEY TOO are part of the 99%!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      @Guitar Of course just about everyone is part of the 99%. But how many truly think these occupiers represent them? The invocation of "the 99%" is one of the crassest, most meaningless political ploys ever.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  9. Guitar

    18% of the American People out of work! "Job Creators"??? Ha!!! These millionaires who most got there by conniving, back stabbing, brown nosing, and kissing butt to their way to the top, are NOT creating Jobs! They take record profits and compensation, while laying off millions of Americans and then shipping the jobs over seas at 1/10 the pay!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • chrissy333

      Exactly!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • fedup99

      Remember all CEO's when to the same applied economics class. The fastest way to make the largest profits is to shed workers. Period.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Guitar

      There is nothing wrong with Profi.! It's the disparity in the distribution of the wealth that's the problem! Why does someone need 100 Million dollars, can't they get by on say $20 Million, while spreading the rest around to those who would then spend their pay on patronizing the companies?

      December 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  10. pillar of salt

    Who cares what Jesus might have been two thousand years ago! He has NOTHING to do with America's current economic situation. Anyone who tries to pin him down as something that applies to our present day political/economic situation is an idiot desperate to deny others of their opinions. Let's stay focused on todays issues and not get bogged down in fleeting interpretations of a man none of us have met.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      Exactly. It doesn't make one bit of difference one way or the other. But for the record, Jesus was pretty serious anti-rich.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Liesmith

    Why are translated and re-translated parables written by Bronze Age goat-herders applicable to today? Even a little?

    Two thousand years ago, was it possible for a handful of people to greedily wreck the global economy, then cry at the injustice of having to pay taxes on their ill-gotten gains?

    December 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Almost

      Because billions believe Jesus was a deity or a prophet, that's why. It may not matter to you or me, but it does to billions. Your attempt at intelligent thought was less relevant and more Bronze Age than any parable of Jesus is to this issue. Do intelligent atheists a favor and use religion to convince the religious rather than incoherently babble because your hatred for religion rivals that of conservatives for the poor.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • What?

      Yes, yes they did.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      The meltdown in the "Eurozone" has mostly to do with run-away spending on social programs. I don't think very many people are even trying to learn anything from the current global economic crisis. They are just waving the same old tired banners of the sort of politics that brought us to this point.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  12. tom

    Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad were the original BLEEDING HEART LIBERALS!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • fedup99

      You have literally lost your mind. Really! LIBERALS! Really!

      December 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Almost

      Jesus, I guess.. Buddha, sure.. Mohammed, not even.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      Mohammed a bleeding heart liberal???

      December 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  13. jai

    Man this guy can twist the scriptures which also states you do to your own distruction... Tony I can see by this article you have no understanding of scriptures at all... So Tony tell me how much jesus charged the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years "Huh"... Yeah nothing, now tell me what kind of financial shape was she in when she got to jesus, thats right broke becuase she had spent it all on doctors and was nothing better... You people lie, lie and then twist the scriptures and lie some more your beyond pathetic!! Let me also ad the devil can change himself into an angel of light, which speaks of how he deceives, I think that fits you nicely!

    December 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Rev. Terry Gold

      Jai, You are totally wrong! Tony Perkins got the translation of scripture from the original language exactly right. I deal with New Testament Greek every day as a profession. The words of the Bible cannot be twisted by guys like you to mean what you want. You did not start by asking what the Bible says. You started with a dubious, unsupported, unthought-out position and rejected anything that disagreed with it. Every scholar of NT Greek will agree, you showed your ignorance as well as your bias.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • jai

      Mr Gold a Rev of what is my question??? Ahhhh, the word says plainly it can by men, what bible are you reading.... Im a minister and I know what I'm talking about! Do you know what a scholar is according to the word sir???? I will stand toe to toe with you about the scritptures anyday Rev!

      December 6, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  14. Jp

    There is no Jesus. Get over it. You ask for proof in everything in life except Religion. Religion will be the reason for our end. Just like it's the reason for wars. The GOP uses it as a tool. Don't be fooled. Think for yourself! Just because your parents told you this fairy tail does not me it's true.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • fedup99

      correct

      December 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  15. Hunter

    the meek will inherit the earth

    December 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  16. Adam Hanson

    Really? Really, CNN? THIS is what you're featuring on your "belief" blog? I Thought I'd accidentally strayed onto the Fox News site or something...

    December 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  17. fedup99

    What tripe! Somebody please take this guy away. Far away.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  18. Bill

    The King/Ruler is Jesus. The servants are not only the disciples but everyone else that decides to accept Jesus' message/teachings (Christians). The money is Jesus' message/teachings.

    Whiles the King (Jesus) is away, the servants (Christians) are to spread and grow the money (Jesus' message/teachings). The servants that faithfully spread and grow Jesus' message/teachings the most will be given greater understanding and insight regarding the message/teachings, so that they can spread and grow it even more. If a servant, simply accepts Jesus' message/teachings and does nothing with them but
    keep them to themselves, then that servant will actually loose the true meaning of Jesus' message/teachings and end up with nothing.

    The parable really has nothing to do with the free market economy.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Converted

      Amen Brother!

      December 6, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  19. Tom Underwood

    In response to this paragraph:
    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.

    My question to you, Tony, is what determines the diligence and determination of an individual? Maybe since you were blessed enough to have diligence and determination, you should be more thankful than haughty and judgmental. Are you actually mentoring our youth and putting your talents to use? If you were exposed to less favorable conditions, I'm sure you would be more compassionate. If you think you know the way, then lead. But don't judge those who haven't had the benefit of such leadership.

    December 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Chris

      And who gives you the right the judge Perkins? Are you "judging" his so-called judgmentalism? Hypocrite.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • St8sman

      @Chris. Judge this..."While working as campaign manager for Louisiana state legislator Woody Jenkins in 1996, Tony Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list, and then tried to hide involvement with Duke, sending payment to Duke through a third party. The campaign was fined $3,000 for trying to hide the payment" Quotefrom Wikipedia.

      December 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Linda

      Chris, please stop judging Tom on his judging of Perkins judgmentalism! *lmao*

      December 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      We all judge each other all the time. The question isn't whether one is judging, but how sound is one's judgment.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  20. flpanhandler

    some of the first churches formed and led by the apostles were communes... now tell me again how he was a capitalist and not a communist..

    December 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      Capitalism and communism weren't even in play in the monarchic world that Jesus lived in and he was too ignorant to think up either.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:08 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.