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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. Synapse

    Tony- better pray you never have to be judged by Him. 2 things- [1] The only time He was described as having been violent- was when he destroyed the places of business of those 'free marketers' in the temple. & [2] I paraphrase what he said "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle- than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven." So much for your self-serving delusion.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  2. gaston

    Please do not take God's name in vain. Please do no turn your political views into idols, and make the Lord the servant of your political views.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  3. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Jeezus was a socialist.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  4. Bucky Ball

    Yeshua bar Joseph was NOT a free marketeer. He was not an insurrectionist who was "taken out" by the authorities, because he was a "clear and present danger" to the authorities in a city TOTALLY based on the "temple based economy'. Tony Perkins has shown himself, again and again, to be a complete idiot with regards to the bible, and the actual events of history. He will spin anything, any way he has to, in order to make it come out in his favor. Yeshua, according to all the gospels, the week before he was executed, "overturned" the tables of the money changers, (which is a heck of a lot like the "occupy" movement). The ENTIRE city of Jerusalem was built on the economic activity surrounding the temple, the festivals, the buying and selling and raising and feeding of animals for sacrificial offerings, and the priestly class, who were paid FEES to perform the sacrifices. FEES for ritual bathing, FEES for proper food, FEES to stay in the house for your trip to the festival, FEES for this FEES for that, and EVERY FEE had to be paid in Jewish currency, and CHANGED from the common currency, (Roman). Yeshua threatened all that, and he had to be removed. HE was an economic rebel, JUST LIKE the "occupiers". As usual, Mr. Perkins has absolutely no clue what he is talking about. 😈

    December 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      oops, it should say he WAS an insurrectionist..

      December 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  5. Billy C.

    Strange...My Bible quotes Jesus as saying that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Seems that Mr. Perkins has selective interpretation of the Bible.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  6. SM

    CNN taking contributions from leaders of hate groups. Wonderful.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  7. Jesus the Free Marketeer

    That's what you get when you take the bible literally. "The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked"... God, dear god, this is funny.
    Jesus as free market promoter????? How funny!!! And that in a society where slaves and women were treated as property, where the upper class nobility held all the cards. How effed up can one be to describe Judaen society as a free market system? How dense can you be? In comparison then medieval feudal society was what... kingdom of the riches?

    Servants are working under the restraints of their Lord? And THAT is a free market? I guess the concentration camp inmates worked also for the benefits of their SS Lords. I wonder if they liked being in the free market?

    Jesus rejected collectivism? I would venture to say that Jesus was a communistic collectivist. hahahaha. Share the bread, share the wealth, don't worry about tomorrow, the lord will feed you like the birds in the fields. Early christian communities only survived through collective support and connections.

    I don't know what bible this guy reads. A Disney version? Shame on this brainless babbler. Then again, check out who he works for, that tells half the story.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  8. Linda

    I'm absolutely astounded by the number of people on this forum (including Perkins) who claim to know exactly what Jesus would do, what his words mean and what his political views would be nowadays. Nobody has ever met him in person and all we have to go on are words from very old scripture, that have been translated, interpreted and changed many times over the centuries. In my opinion it's quite pretentious for anyone to claim that they know what the definitive interpretation of the bible is. Or how Jesus would respond to 21th century political issues. The reactions in here are a very clear demonstration of why religion should not have a decisive roll in politics....

    December 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Linda

      'decisive ROLE', that is 🙂

      December 6, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Jim

      Now THAT'S funny! Last night I was on the CNN belief blog pretending to be a semi-literate Christian fundamentalist named Linda. I'm not kidding!

      December 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Linda

      @Jim :-0 Well, this Linda is not a fundamentalist. Also not semi-literate. I am however not a native speaker, so there might be some typo's in my post 😉 But more important: WHY are you pretending to be a fundamentalist woman at night? *lol*

      December 6, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Jim

      In the virtual world of the Internet, I am many people, Linda. I did not mean to imply that YOU are fundamentalist or semi-literate, only that it was kind of a coincidence. Why do I do it? It's fun! I play roles and, if I do my job well, no one catches on. People are willing to have long discussions–more like arguments–with my characters. I get bored with the same issues and the same people expressing the same opinions. I'll create and outrageous character, and some people just can't resist reacting.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Linda

      Lol, that sounds quite exhausting! I just landed on this page by accident, because this controversial blog was on the front page (!!) of CNN US News (like it was regular news?). But I won't judge your late night activities; waaaaay too much judging going around on this forum already. So live long and prosper, with all these outrageous online characters! 🙂

      December 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  9. Robert Eastwood

    Your first two words shows your not thinking about it. It is better to give.

    Jesus was not about 'Taking' he spoke about Giving.

    Do not turn my fathers house into a marketplace. You might have missed those teachings.

    And honestly, Love your enemy is about empathy for everyone, and if you have empathy for everyone, you understand that any interactions should be beneficial to everyone involved, not one group trying to control another group for there benefit. If you do have some business, then each interaction should be as helpful to the person you produce for, as it is for the person in the business. Not some way to skim or control a set of workers, or customers.

    And most of your free trade is not about helping people, but race to the bottom, whatever makes the most money, regardless of what they do, is the system put in place, hence why regulation is to help you not be as cruel and destructive in your striving to make money, if money is what you believe is most important.

    And it was the women with only 2 cents giving all she had that was said to be of more worth, showing it has nothing to do with how much money someone has.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  10. Texas Coyote

    This is a ridiculous story by Perkins. Most OCCUPIERS are gainfully employed people from all walks of life.If you support a more responsible/responsive government for the people(not international corporations), and at least some type of economic equality for middle-class America. SUPPORT OCCUPY

    December 6, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  11. portland tony

    Jesus lived in a different more simple age and his philosophy would certainly have adapted to the changes in society Whose to say he wouldn't have behaved differently in modern times.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  12. Darryl

    It's a good thing Jesus never existed. I'm sure he was an Occupier in whatever fairy tale world you're referring to.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  13. btinc

    Tony Perkin, continuing the long tradition of putting words in a made-up god's mouth.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  14. Larry L

    They keep trying to make Jesus a Republican. He wasn't hateful.. He wasn't a racist. He didn't want to exploit the poor. How could he be a Republican?

    December 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  15. Texas Coyote

    Most OCCUPIERS are gainfully employed people from all walks of life.If you support a more responsible/responsive government for the people(not international corporations), and at least some type of economic equality for middle-class America. SUPPORT OCCUPY

    December 6, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  16. HappyNonBeliever

    Why do Christians assume that everyone else in the U.S. is also a Christian? I've never understood that – it's so abysmally arrogant.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Larry L

      We've allowed the religious to trample our rights for centuries. Only recently have atheists decided to say "enough" and started demanding the removal of Christian mythology from government activities and true separation of church and state. I pay my taxes and served my country for over 30 years. I don't want my money funding the most evil force on earth – religion. We already allow them to remain exempt from taxation – thus funding religion with taxpayer dollars. Many of them are little more than poitical lobbies and spend their time and money promoting the right-wing agenda – including the new hype about our obligation to support Israel. Enough – go thump a Bible until your "thumper" falls off but just leave me alone!

      December 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  17. David G.

    How do you know what Jesus was or wasn't? You weren't there. You've never met him.

    Oh and nice attempt at trying to make people look down on Occupy Wall Street. Unfortunately for you, it's getting bigger by the day and this system won't be able to last for much longer. Get over it and move on with your life.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  18. Gadflie

    Jesus is very clear several times about how likely it is for a rich man to get into heaven...

    December 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      He never wrote anything down so how do you know this. He was illiterate.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  19. Norman Lipschitz

    Makes a lot of sense to me. You Christians could stand to learn a bit about finance; just sayin'. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with making money. Money isn't the enemy, investing in a no-load mutual fund that yeilds under 7% is! Just kidding. It's ok to kid here, isn't it? Anyway, make some money and be happy. That's the best thing to do.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Allan

      You're the guy who was "Hitler II," arent you?

      December 6, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Norman Lipschitz

      Yes, and so are you, "Allan."

      December 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  20. Z from Indy

    Jesus also said the He is 'THE way, THE truth, and THE light. No man comes to the Father, but through me.'

    Free market would suggest that He is 'A way, A truth, and A light. Man can come to the Father, maybe through me, but he can also find another way.'

    Tony Perkins, you have been co-opted by conservatives who believe the world is their possession, and we're all just squirrels, and you, their errand boy sent to do their bidding and pass yourself as a religious authority.

    "Family" "Research" "Council"! HA!!!

    December 6, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Jeebus

      Well said!

      December 6, 2011 at 9:15 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.