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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. azgdgdsgsag

    You know, I would claim say that Jesus was behind the Occupy movement – but the idea that Jesus promotes a Free Market economic system is about the stupidest and irrational and self-serving claim I've heard from the Christian Right in a long time.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  2. jv

    Wow!!!! What a load of %$&!!!! I wonder how Mr. Perkins would twist the scriptures to justify what the teabaggers do

    December 6, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  3. Reilleyfam

    This article is EXTREMELY offensive as a Christian. This article is factually wrong and a sin. Shame on this author.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      There is no such thing as sin.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  4. disciple

    Tax the church or keep God out of this. God doesn't vote or pay taxes.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      God doesn't do anything at all.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • John Pedant

      Actually, Jesus did pay taxes. He was born in Bethlehem because of a tax audit and told the pharisees to "render unto Caesar". If Mr. Perkins wants to make Jesus a model for tax policy, the 99% would have no quarrel with that. The 1%, on the other hand, might turn to their natural allies: the pharisees. Clip their phylacteries.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  5. zero for jean

    Mr Perkins, I've read many of the comments to this article. Most of them seem to disagree with your INTERPRETAION, no matter what their opinion of the Occupy movement. You are selfish and greedy. Your pocket book will weigh down your soul and make it too heavy for ascension to Heaven.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      There is no heaven.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  6. Mindie from India

    Jesus may not have but one thing is for sure – Jesus would care for the poor, sick and elderly – the very people the teabaggers and current crop of GOP hulligans care nothing about.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  7. Ungodly Discipline

    Have you seen the new bank in Poland that recently opened?

    Bank Jezusa Chrystusa

    http://www.bankjezusa.pl

    They put their money where this article is!

    December 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  8. TruBluVet

    Jesus damned well "occupied" the synagogue in Jerusalem when he drove out the money changers (bankers) from within.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • John Pedant

      As a person of the Trinity, Christ occupied every place from all eternity and does so still. He even occupies this thread (so it is just as well that his patience is infinite).

      December 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • TruBluVet

      Thank you John Pedant for your reply. Now what the hell is your point?

      December 6, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  9. T

    Tony Perkins isn't a Christian.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Why?

      December 6, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  10. Kaymen

    I'm going to have to strongly disagree with this one... I dont consider myself a Christian but even I know there are dozens of stories and parables from Jesus that would contradict the authors view point based on one parable.

    A few examples for instance;

    When one man comes to Jesus, says he has followed all the commandments and wishes to inherit eternal life, Jesus says-
    “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” -Luke 18:23-25

    “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." -Matthew 6:19-21

    What about the story of Jesus and the money changers, which is in all four gospels? (If you dont know the story, he runs a bunch of "money changers" (capitalist?) out of the temple with a whip.

    "And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Jesus, Matthew 5:40

    And John the Baptist says, "“The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” -Luke 3:11

    And this is not to mention the lives of the apostles after Jesus was crucified... in the book of the Acts they live like straight up Communist- everyone who wants to be Christian gives up all of their possessions into community ownership, and the head apostles decide how to use it for the betterment of the community. God even strikes dead one couple who tried to hold back alittle property for themselves. see The Acts, chapters 4-5.

    And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg, I could go on for pages.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Why quote scripture if you are not a Christian? Why do you even care?

      December 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Kaymen

      I can still respect Jesus as a historical person... and I am amazed at the irony within the hypocrisy of the Christian Right Wing viewpoint.

      If somebody wants to have religious faith, that's fine. But it makes me mad when people twist religions into tools of persuasion to impose their will upon the masses.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  11. John Pedant

    If Jesus was the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, he shared (and shares) all the divine attributes, including omnipresence. There is no place that an omnipresent deity does not occupy. Therefore Jesus is an occupier. Saint Augustine could have told you this 1,600 years ago. Bless me, what do they teach them in these schools.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Bless you John. Do the living inhabitants of other worlds in the universe also worship Jesus/God? If not who/what do you suppose they worship and will the go to hell?

      December 6, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  12. Novusod

    Of course Jesus would be an Occupier. Hello, Occupy the Temple mount in Jerusalem and throw the money changers out. That is why he crucified. Editor you sir are the devil bringer of misinformation to lead the people astray.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • John Pedant

      Nice sentiments, shame about the grammar. "Crucify" is a transitive verb (it takes an object). Bless me, etc.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  13. Joe

    Im so tired of everyone saying who Jesus was and who he wasn't. This nation is nothing but a bunch of idiots bickering over garbage.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  14. yeahalright

    What a surprise. A "man of god" using god to justify his political beliefs.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  15. zero for jean

    Shame on those, like Mr Perkins, who try to turn Jesus into a political figure! Mankind's petty political and economic manuevers are below God and his son. Mr Perkins should check his worthiness to make such connections. In the end, he will find it lacking.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  16. John G.

    Portraying Jesus as a capitalist far-fetched and superficial as one can become: remember the money-changers Jesus railed against. OWS never protested against capitalism. They stand against an immoral political system and the inequality of our current society. They are not asking for handouts but a fair system. But this is stating the obvious. Perkins must have a hidden agenda and is promulgating proganda for truth, and, unfortunately, there are too many gullible Americans falling for it.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  17. Kathleen

    the point of the occupy movement is not collectivism–it's equal outcome for equal performance. that means when you make a bad business decision (big banks), you suffer for it (don't get bailed out by taxpayers) and when you work 70 hours a week (low-income breadwinners), your income and ability to succeed is a reflection of this work ethic.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  18. tecjug

    Again I tell you, 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.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  19. Dot

    Unfortunately, Mr. Perkins is using the Bible to push his own beliefs and leaving out other parts of the Bible that might show a disagreement with him. Too bad. This group could really mean something to us if they used their energy and resources to minister to people who really need help. Many in Occupy group have, or know people who have, come across hard times because of greedy banks and business people and corrupt or uncaring public officials. They worked hard for their part of the American dream, but it was taken from them.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Alison

      Which is definitely a good reason to just throw up their hands and give up.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  20. Robert Paulson

    This would be good evidence for someone's thesis about "mental disorders and the media."

    December 6, 2011 at 7:10 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.