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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. appalled

    really.... seriously CNN? I understand this is opinion, but this is horrible. Not news worth "in my opinion"..... one thing is right though, jesus wouldnt be an occupier, but he wouldn't be a free marketer either.... hello!?!? so, in answer to what would jesus do... he would help mace college kids....

    December 7, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  2. Ryan

    My take: Jesus would be at home among the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, and would have very little in common with a man who cherry picks from his words to justify ignoring the above.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Bobs Friend

      Of course He would. But He wants us to help the poor because we love them, not because the government forced us to do it. That removes all righteousness from charity, which is the goal of the Godless left.. Can a person who pays tax to help the poor make a claim that he is compassionate? Of course not?!

      2 Corin 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  3. George

    Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council does a lot of great work for America. They help us with our organizing. There aren't many like him who stand up for Christ. He is a light in the darkness. I hope that he will be our president in the future.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Dan5404

      Is that the same Family Values group that gave a family values award to the deadbear Republican Tea Party congressman who owes more than $100,000 in back child support?

      December 7, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Dan5404

      Is that the same Family Values group that gave a family values award to the deadbeat Republican Tea Party congressman who owes more than $100,000 in back child support?

      December 7, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  4. Seth

    It seems lost on the author that the servants were given a handout.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  5. Wanderer81

    Christianity, Inc. At least this man has the honesty to state this is the evangelical agenda, I'll give him that. Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Joel Olsteen, and other big tent preachers don't have that level of honesty. Set those tables back up boys!...we are going to the moon!

    December 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  6. John Price

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK7gI5lMB7M&w=640&h=360]

    Supply Side Jesus would be proud!

    December 6, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  7. Shawn Davis

    Jesus "selected the free market system."

    Dude, you're an idiot and crazy at the same time. I can't believe CNN actually published this crap.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  8. Bobs Friend

    My battle with preversion has been tough. When I see a good lookin' cowboy in some tight Levi's, Satan starts a temptin' me. I fight back with the word of God. I rebuke the perfectly formed, muscular buttocks! I rebuke you!

    December 6, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  9. RW

    It doesn't appear that Mr. Perkins has sold too many people on this swill. Just another person interpreting the Bible for their own best self interest. I can't even give this article a 'nice try' rating and I feel guilty for having wasted the time I spent reading it.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  10. 99er

    From Wikipedia:

    "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."

    And CNN gives this guy print?

    December 6, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Daguz

      Nice find.

      Jesus Christ was a Socialist; Everytime this is posted, a Republicans head shuts down, pass it on.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  11. George

    The occupiers are nothing but modern-day hippies. Ignore them and they will be gone by summer.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • ashrakay

      In summer they said they'd be gone by winter.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  12. BOB (burnt out bad)

    Jesus lives down the street

    December 6, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Jimtanker

      I know a guy named Jesus Rirera that lives down the block.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I know Jenny from the block. I think she did Jesus. She did everyone else.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  13. Chris

    If Tony and his followers don't like the negative tone of many of these comments, they could at least take refuge in the fact that Jesus and his followers were similarly misunderstood and persecuted. But in order to wear this mantle of Christlike humility, they need to be sure of their arguments. You ain't bein' persecuted or misunderstood if you're a blithering idiot, saying stupid stuff in a public forum!

    December 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  14. Wanderer81

    He wasn't a politician either...

    December 6, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  15. Lenny

    You may want to read up on Matthew 25:31-46 as it's Jesus himself who's talking. Pay close attention to what he says of those who don't help the less fortunate, around Matthew 25:41-46. I think his views are pretty clear in that passage... but what do I know? I'm no theologian!

    December 6, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Daguz

      You know more than than Tony Perkins.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  16. Jason

    Dear Lord, open the eyes of the unGodly, and help the sodomites see the error and filth of their ways. Open the eyes of the murderer and socialist, the pervert and the hippie. In Jesus's name, Amen.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Daguz

      Dear Lord,
      Forgive Jason for his ignorance on your intentions, Forgive Jason for passing judgement onto others and give Jason the strength to see the truth.

      Amen

      December 7, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  17. MagnumPIE

    I've truly heard it all now, Jesus was pro-Business.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  18. Barry

    The devil wears many mass

    December 6, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  19. Neverknownquestions

    Hey CNN – if you want to have a religion blog, might I suggest getting a qualified expert on religion. A christian biblical scholar for example. They could offer their own perspective and also likely have an open mind about different interpretations.

    Instead you have the leader of a hate group claiming that his religion supports the exact opposite of what the text says.

    This would be like having a fox in charge of telling people how to care for hens. The man's a predator on the gullible and the ignorant.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • George

      The Family Research Council is not a hate group. They are conservative Christians looking out for you and me.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  20. west

    ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...... nutcase

    December 6, 2011 at 11:34 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.