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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. winnie the pooh

    The occupiers obviously want to win over the Christian crowd: hope it does not work.

    What is sad about the whole thing is that Mr Perkins while attempting to unleash a counterpunch, proves himself even more ridiculous, un-educated and contradictory (if possible), than the occupiers. The discussion thus becomes completely nonsensical (save the comments of some readers, that are actually funny).

    December 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  2. MrData

    Jesus lived out of tents with his deciples so did moses with his followers..not out of mansions. moses left the masion to be with his poor people..jesus left that carpentry job. to travel like a homeless man. Mr. perkins is severely misguided.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Jesus was a carpenter in much the same way as the trash man is a "refuse coordinator"

      December 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  3. Raul

    If i were Jesus I would not bother occupying anything. I am GOD for God's sake. What do I have a need for anything? This is truly another disingenous trick to justify oppression of the 1%. Get real and apologize to GOD.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  4. blue

    It doesn't matter if people work hard or are more innovative. Equality of results should be the outcome.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  5. Bman

    I read about as much of this as I could. When he started denigrating our citizens exercising their right to assemble and speak freely, I had enough. Send this snake back under the rocks he came from.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Neverknownquestions

      I think you put it rather aptly. It's pretty sickening watching him denigrate people for exercising the same rights that allow him to spew this nonsensical babble. "Snake" is definitely what I would describe him as – he certainly is every bit as deceptive as that biblical character.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  6. Seminary Graduate

    ""If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18"

    December 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  7. Ken in MO

    This man has not idea what the bible is about. He must believe in the bible that says, "take advantage of the poor, the children, the handicapped and the elderly." The family research councel is just a tool of the Republican party and has not been associated with "Christianity" for quite some time. Makes me sick. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We have NEVER had a gap this big between the wealthy and the poor. Makes me sick. Calling them "job creators" is like saying Haliburton is supply our troops with supplies because they are "generous". We gave them Billions of dollars in tax incentives and still no jobs. Many corporations pay no taxes. Makes me sick. They then take our jobs and ship them overseas...makes me sick. We have financial crises, housing crisis, healthcare crises, etc. because the congress and govt did not do their jobs...then we say there are no jobs because of too much govt regulations. Makes me sick. We have the gulf oid spill because NO ONE would hold BP and Haliburton accountable and then we say off shore drilling is ok...but get shocked when we have these disasters and then say the govt regualation is the problem. Makes me sick!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • fedup99

      Haven't you heard? Its all Obamas fault! );

      December 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  8. Martin66

    Another attempt to adapt the Bible to one's ideas and lifestyle rather than the opposite. Nice try Mr. Perkins, people like you are responsible for deteriorating the roots of this religion.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  9. Neverknownquestions

    It's amazing how the rich are so full of themselves that they think they can rewrite entire mythologies. Do you think we're that dense that you can put one over on us, Mr. Perkins? Or are you just delusional about what your religion actually teaches that you seriously believe?

    In any case, thanks for exposing yourself as being an absolute hypocrite. Anytime you moralize over others I'll just remember about how you tried to twist scripture around to justify greed.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  10. Seminary Graduate

    Shame on you CNN. How in the world did CNN think THIS man should write their religion blog?? He clearly hasn't gone to seminary or read a bible all the way through. Many, many, many thoughts come to mind, but let's roll with this for now:

    ""If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18"

    December 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Neverknownquestions

      Hear hear. What is CNN thinking in letting a figure from a known hate-group have a soap box?

      December 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  11. daveinla

    I suppose if Jesus were alive today walking the earth in his human form he would be on the board at Goldman Sachs? Is this opinion page for real?

    December 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  12. Alex

    Jesus also didn't have to pay for health insurance and an education...

    I'm not sure what the point of this article is but I think CNN has finally begun its own descent into utter nonsense.

    I hope this country smartens up a bit.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  13. Mike Zarro

    Jesus was not concerned about the wealth of nations, Tony; "render unto Caesar" was his advice on that. Jesus asks that "[t]hy Kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven." The "Occupiers" in Luke's parable are charged with the "business" of the Kingdom here and now; spreading the Way of compassion that lifts up the least among us. Jesus tells us that his face may be seen in the 50 million Americans on food stamps; how are we answering his call on that one? I'd say the "Wall Street Occupiers" are a lot closer than you are. Try giving a few other scripture lessons a read and see what you think. Say maybe Luke 19:1-10? Were Jesus around today, Zaccheus would be on Wall Street trying to catch a glimpse from the penthouse. Would you consider joining him? And one more thing – trophies are for ten year olds.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  14. ****

    One cannot mold Christianity to be what is convenient for one's greed and desires. One must mold one's self to be what Christianity demands of them. Jesus never said that Christianity was a contest, from which the winners became rich. He preached against personal wealth and owned nothing. He lived like a hippie (using this term loosely). Perkins is posioning the word of Jesus with his own desire to be rich. SHAME on Perkins! He is wrong, wrong, wrong.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  15. grayarea

    Seriously? Jesus? Is this cynical or just nuts? The goal was to amass wealth for Jesus while he's away? Um, believe in this stuff or not, I think the author really missed something if he read the whole book and came up with that baloney.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  16. Jan

    The free market system is occasionally abused? There is equal opportunity for everyone? Wow, this guy is really drinking the Kool Aid, but then again what can you expect from someone who spends a lot of time in DC? Btw, these comments come from a committed Christian who supports the common-sense reforms Occupy is proposing.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  17. fred

    water & mike. I think that Perkins was being sarcastic where this article is a bit silly in that the interpretation from an english version of the scriptures is being taken literally. And that the single word "occupy" is the key to the author's argument and a way for him to twist scripture to suit his agenda.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  18. olderguy

    Oh, now I get it! Jesus was just another one of those suck-up and kick-down Republicans who never met a rich man he didn't like.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  19. Clifford S

    I dont think any of you hvae ever picked up a bible much less studied it. Everything this man was saying is exactly true, a parable isnt understood by those that dont know God.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • xysea1971

      That is the biggest load of hogwash I have ever heard, Clifford S. What he is saying is a lie and he has twisted it to fit his own ends. Don't be dishonest.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • mcdanp

      I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but this guy is just another hypocrite using scripture as it suits him to justify what he is already doing. Do you think Jesus would be a hedge-fund manager?

      December 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  20. Jack

    Is this a joke?

    "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24

    Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers". Matthew 21:12-13

    December 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • daveinla

      Spoy on Jack.

      December 6, 2011 at 6:31 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.