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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. miketofdal

    Are you kidding me? You really sat down and wrote this thoughtless piece of garbage?

    December 6, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  2. Gonzo

    non-freethinker (Allow me to call you "Brainwashed" rather than your suggested moniker): Jesus was a hippy, a liberal, an occupier, and probably a stoner to boot. He liked wine, that much we do know.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  3. Brian

    CNN should be ashamed for publishing such an abomination of trite, spiteful, and shallow writing. Honestly, the piece would be garbage if Perkins came out and said these were his opinions on Occupy, but instead he had to hide behind one short verse in the Bible to "show" that Jesus was a free market believer who would surely smite the Occupiers if he were alive. It's a sad state of affairs when the leader of a supposedly Christian group forgets that Jesus wasn't an economist or a day trader, he was the SON OF GOD.

    Why an editor would green light a piece of trash like this for publication (at a national cable news outlet no less) is beyond me. At least you got your page views, CNN.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  4. Neverknownquestions

    It is easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than people like Tony Perkins to claim with any credibility whatsoever that Jesus supports the materialistic & greedy exact polar opposite of everything he does & says in the bible.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  5. smdahl

    The "author" of this blog, Tony Perkins, "became the President of the conservative Christian Family Research Council, a political offshoot of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, in September 2003...In 2010, the Family Research Council—under Perkins' leadership—was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center."

    This is CNN's "christian" blogger. CNN is a terrorist organization.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  6. Bobs Friend

    I don't look at manbutt no more, not since I found God. Now, when I'm on my knees, I'm prayin'.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Bobs Friend

      Another 14 year old!

      December 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Bobs Friend

      No thank you!

      December 6, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  7. PLAY SLAYER!

    All this article did was make me want to switch to Buddhism.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  8. Ken

    I could not agree more with the content of this article. Glad to see that CNN finally put someone with some sense in for an opinion piece. I am not someone who thinks America should be viewed as a Christian nation specifically, or that we have to hold ourselves to Christian ideals necessarily. But I do think that the "occupy movement" (a bit of an oxymoron IMO the way it is being carried out- like moving to stand still) fails to grasp personal responsibility and accountability for themselves. This is somewhat hypocritical given that their main premise is that those who are viewed as successful aren't being responsible or being held accountable.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • christianbrother

      Hey Ken,

      We don't hold the wealthy accountable, why should we hold the poor accountable? Do you endorse our current system of socialism for the rich and free market for the poor? Maybe you are falling victim to a counter-marketing campaign against OWS? The Tea Party had millions from the Koch brothers paying to sustain a message, these OWS kids are out there alone. Life is rarely simple and when someone offers a simple explanation for a complex situation you are being mislead. Think, read you bible and come back when you are ready to talk.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:46 am |
  9. Rigel Behrens

    Umm...couple of things. And, I'm not a super churchy/bible study type, but I'm fairly familiar with the Gospels and the Word. Yes, the Lord helps those who help themselves, but I don;t think this was intended in a second-third-fourth helping at dinner way, particularly when others are still waiting for their first plate of supper. There was the whole turning over the table of the money lenders in the temple incident, the camel-through-the-eye-of a needle thing, the whole those who treat the the weakest among us badly treats Jesus badly notion...seriously. Folks who are putting their bodies, their time, their safety, their freedom on the line for some decency in the American system of both governance and economic fairness are closer to God than greedy money-worshiping "help yourselfers" are. I believe in hard work and a willingness to sacrifice for righteousness. So how do big bonuses for propping up the bottom line fall into the the picture? Using real faith to discourage individual humanity and decency to justify inequity seems like an express train to hell to me, but what do I know? Proceed on with accusations of communism or socialism or laziness or a need to bathe more or "whining" or whatever the FOX News anchors suggest as talking points now. And tell it to Mother Theresa's corpse while you're at it. There's no right or left, there's just simple right and wrong. Whatever allows you to sleep at the end of the day...

    December 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  10. Reality

    JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

    December 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  11. CN

    well, one cannot blame cnn. by giving this fascist space, they are definitely allowing all to voice their views. i'm a little bit confused, though... what about the part when jesus commanded the rich to give away their possessions to the poor? isn't it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven? didn't jesus also tell us not to worry about saving money? didn't he tell his followers to consider the lilies of the field, which do not spin nor toil?

    just goes to show, you can't run a modern society from a book based on mores 2000 years out of date. and don't trust anyone who claims to know the mind of god.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  12. dan

    clearly the parable was not about money but talents. if you go back and re read the scripture you will see that this article is entirely false

    December 6, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  13. Centralfeedback

    Wow. Perkins, you are a reprehensible human being.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  14. JW

    Yeah Tony, this is just "your" take. I am not christian, but I respect many aspects of the christian religion. First, you fail to compensate for a couple thousand years of cultural evolution (or devolution depending on how you look at it). Next your overall view of (Herman Cain,esque) Winners and Losers are the outcome of individual diligence and effort... is just plain wrong. Yeah the occupy movement might have eccentric facets and people will take advantage of it (like anything else) but the point still stands. Many have LOST their jobs, regardless of how hard they worked. A persons wealth no longer depends on ones individual effort, that is what has been lost. That is what the occupy movement is trying to restore. If you can't see that and offer the same kind of "fair" view in your article(s), you don't deserve the space to write it.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  15. tldixon

    didn't Christ drive the money lenders from the temple or did he skip that day of sunday school?

    December 6, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Bobs Friend

      Read the text: THere was a REASON He threw them out, and it wasn't because they were making a profit: He was fulfilling an old Testament Prophecy: in Psalm 69:9 "Zeal for your house will consume me"

      Matt 21:12Jesus entered the temple area 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. 13“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’e but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’f”

      So their sins was not buying and selling, but doing it IN THE TEMPLE. So this is not any kind of indictment against having a business or making a profit, it is about desecrating a Holy place, not respecting the things of God.
      Which is what people do on this board constantly..BTW

      December 6, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Reality

      (from Professor JD Crossan's book, "Who is Jesus" co-authored with Richard Watts)

      "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

      "Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets." Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus' last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."

      "In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life."

      December 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Andy Anderson

      That's not actually a prophecy, though. That's somebody looking back through the hebrew scriptures to find things to support what they were asserting in the gospels. It's called 'proof-texting'.

      An real prophecy would have mentioned who, what, when, where, how, and THEN why. Picking random things from Psalms is not prophetic, it's just grasping at straws.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • Andy Anderson

      Bob's Friend:

      That's not actually a prophecy, though. That's somebody looking back through the hebrew scriptures to find things to support their claims in the gospels they were writing. It's called 'proof-texting', and it's not a good way to demonstrate the truth of a claim.

      An real prophecy would have mentioned who, what, when, where, how, and THEN why. Otherwise it's just a lame post-hoc attempt at lending credibility. Don't believe me? Ask a Rabbi why they don't accept Jesus as the Jewish messiah, and one of the first things you'll hear is that he does not fulfill the OT prophecies.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Bobs Friend

      I understand that there are people who don't believe??!!.

      That wasn't the point, the point was that the clearing of the temple had nothing to do with capitalism/socialism, wealth being a sin or anything like that. But it is frequently abused for that purpose by the Spiritless and uneducated. .

      It was about desecrating the Temple. To use it as some kind of indictment against a profit making business is just as bad as the original article itself. First of all, the Bible cannot be understood at all by the nonChristian; the Bible itself says that. Second, even Christians require years of study to understand the finer points of Scripture and how it applies to current issues.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Bobs Friend

      @ Reality:
      I fully understand that "Educated" Spiritually dead professors are offended by the Bible. Nevertheless, they are still stuck with their sin, and will still face God, and there is only one thing they can do with sin: Repent and believe, and Jesus will take away their sin and give them a new heart, and a new life.

      Then they will understand what they read when they read the Bible. I am not the least bit interested in the opinion of Spiritually dead people; I understand where they are coming from because I too was once a sarcastic mocker. Their opinions are entirely irrelevant.
      The truth is that they hate righteousness; if they loved righteousness, they would come to The Light.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  16. Chris

    As Jesus said in a much different context, (or was it Saint Paul who said it? I forget), "God helps those who help themselves." Praise the Lord for Capitalism and free market economics!!!! Adam Smith is Tony's Lord and Savior, and he's mine, too. God bless the child that's got his own.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Larry L

      The quote isn't from the Bible. It was first made in a speech by Adolph Hitler. Look it up.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • christianbrother

      "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
      Matthew 25:40

      You have fallen for a tragic lie. Go back and read your bible again. Read the life of Christ and think hard. Then come back and tell us how you think he would feel about the current system of socialism for the rich and free market for the poor.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  17. Attila

    Thanks for the prayer, butthumper.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  18. ZZeyn

    I don't think all occupiers are Christians! Why bother bringing religion into OWS movement?

    December 6, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  19. Bobs Friend

    OK it's Prayer and devotion time!! Praise the Lord!

    Lord, open the eyes of all of the angry, hateful mockers on this board. Let them see your light in Jesus.
    If you read the Gospels, you will find that frequently Jesus surprised and shocked the people around Him. He was frequently doing the opposite that people expected. I think it would be notoriously difficult to predict what Jesus might say about the Occupy movement or any other topic.
    If you read the first three books of Revelation, they are letters to churches, frequently rebuking the churches and calling them to repentance with warnings. It sounds like a post Paul law based Book. Anyway, wealth is never a sin in the Bible, but it frequently warns that: Wealth cannot ultimately satisfy, it cannot protect you from temporal or eternal justice, in many respects it is futile, and it requires great maturity to be wealthy and righteous. (Wealth makes it easier to sin)
    Man abuses whatever power he gets.
    If Jesus came down just to discuss the Occupy movement, I think everyone on all sides of the issue would get a rebuke of some kind. As the bible says "There is none righteous, no not one"

    December 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • ashrakay

      and Santa, please bring me a bike for my birthday.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Larry L

      You are all quoting things men wrote – not some god. These thing were argued and editorialized to meet the social and political needs of the time. God didn't write. Men wrote. Think.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Reality

      "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

      Martin Luther "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

      December 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Bobs Friend

      People who cannot understand Revelation are simply displaying their ignorance of the Old testament prophets. They're right, it cannot be understood by itself, it requires a careful study throughout the Prophets to even have a clue.
      Sir Isaac Newton devoted a tremendous amount of time to Revelation and the Prophets; he wrote more on the topic than anything else.
      That's why I referred to only the first 3 chapters, they are relatively easy to comprehend, the rest is graduate level stuff.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  20. Kevin

    This is so far from an accurate interpretation, it is embarassing that it is published. The parable uses money and investment returns as the story, but the meaning has nothing to do with money (hence it is a parable). It has to do with how we spend our time, talents and resources on the earth. Are we (1) building God's kingdom (a great return on God's investments in us as individuals), (2) providing a small return (an "average" life without much service to God) or no return (a wasted life by God's standards not worthy of his investment). One day we will need to explain it to Him and this is a preview of his response to different lives lived.

    Try doing even a small amount of studying before you write an article.

    December 6, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Reality

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen

      December 6, 2011 at 11:33 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.